Ricardo Blanco is a civil engineer, a Cuban-American born in Madrid a few short months before the Paris spring and its communist-led student riots in 1968. He is also a professor and a poet who has famously read his unreadable “One Today” at Obama’s second inauguration. He now will read another poem at the flag-raising ceremony at the embassy in Havana. Ricardo Blanco also happens to be gay and his poetry has been criticized by the muck-racking John Dolan as identity poetry “unsullied by one single stray thought or original turn of phrase.”

Had Ricardo Blanco’s parents been unable to flee, first to Madrid, then to Miami, and had Ricardo Blanco grown up in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, his being gay would have been a problem. His being a poet would have been a problem had he written anything original and un-bowing to the communist party line. Perhaps he realizes this, as his parents were anti-Castro exiles in Miami. Perhaps he realizes how fortunate he was to grow up in America and reap the bounties of its awesome generosity. Perhaps as the Cuban band plays John Phillip Sousa tunes to warm up the audience – I am watching the live feed as I write this – in the hot and humid Havana climate, he will be grateful for the freedom offered him by the Stars and Stripes and the Republic for which it stands, as he sees it raised in the re-opening of the American Embassy.

Whether his poem actually uses the word “freedom” – the band is now playing what is called “son” that’s Spanish – is another matter. One doubts he will actually use that word and instead paint a painfully detailed and trivial pastiche of what has divided America and Cuba and what will unite America and Cuba, using those 90 miles of open sea as a painfully long and drawn out metaphor. Maybe he could use one word instead: freedom. As in what divides the two countries. That simple and that powerful. But that wouldn’t make much of a poem. And we wouldn’t need Ricardo Blanco and his poem at the embassy opening.

According to the New York Times, Jeb Bush is the GOP candidate most likely to win the nomination. And if not Jeb, then Rubio who’s 2nd most likely, or Scott Walker who’s 3rd most likely. It’s still about the money primaries – or the invisible primaries – according to the NYT. Polls matter, but fundraising and endorsements are what separates the likely winners from the rest of the field. If history is any guide. If 2016 eventually pans out to be a contest similar to past presidential contests.

In the NYT’s analysis of the GOP field, there are five candidates who rank 12th – that’s bad – in National Endorsements, while varying greatly in polls, and money raised: Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki. In terms of money raised, Carson is at 9, Jindal at 10, Fiorina at 13, Trump at 14, and Pataki at 15. Trump leads in the two polls, Iowa nad New Hampshire, while the rest are all over the map as far as poll numbers go. That means the GOP establishment is not about to start supporting any of them seriously until they are convinced they can win. Or the GOP establishment in fact does not always do that good a job of picking winners and they just don’t like outsiders who they haven’t rubbed shoulders with. With GOP voters still largely waiting to decide, perhaps the national endorsing crowd should broaden their perspective a bit.

While Jeb Bush leads the NYT’s overall ranking of the 4 variables: National Endorsements, Iowa Poll numbers, New Hampshire poll numbers, and Money Raised, it seems a little early to declare Jeb Bush as the inevitable winner, to put it mildly. The fact that Rubio is sitting cute, cuddly, and pretty at number two reflects his very strong fund-raising efforts and his comfortable mid-level rankings in the other 3 variables. How Scott Walker comes in 3rd behind Rubio is a bit of a mystery, seeing he is well ahead of the Florida senator in every category except fund-raising where he is just one point behind Rubio. And just behind Walker is Carly Fiorina, whose numbers are worse than or are even with Donald Trump’s but leads him anyway. Maybe this is all about the NYT guessing who the GOP wants to win the nomination. Maybe the GOP wants a nominee who the NYT would, if not endorse, at least not attack mercilessly. And maybe, the money and endorsements will wash over the wave of conservative anger and the GOP will resume doing business as usual in D.C. Any outcome at this point, is pure speculation.

The late Allan Bloom in his seminal work, The Closing of the American Mind, released 28 years ago, described the two revolutions that have divided the world for over two centuries now: the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Both occurred within a few years of each other. American support for the French Revolution was divided and America had to display a cautious neutrality as the French Revolution became ever more radical and spread conflict throughout Europe. While America’s revolution gave rise to a republic that encouraged individual endeavor and a constitution that respected local government and individual liberties, the French revolution led to the world’s first truly radical government with the Jacobian terror and a few years later the world’s first proto-fascist government with the diminutive Corsican inspiring many 20th century tyrants. And Central State Planning, with capital letters, is nothing if not French in its origin.

Radicalism, like in late 18th century France, like in the Soviet Union, like in Cuba, like in marxist guerilla movements, or radical Islamic terrorism, inevitably feeds on itself. Radicalism to justify itself, must be ever more radical, or else it’s raison d’etre (it’s fitting to use French) c’est finit. Because the American republic has such a solid constitutional foundation, radicalism in America diffused out into social progressive movements based on gender, sexual orientation, and race of course. The Weathermen became academics and mentors to a future president, and the Black Panthers eventually dispersed as well. And a rainbow, if you will, of social activists took up the language of liberation theory without the guns and bombs.

It is not at all ironic then, that it was precisely Bernie Sanders who radical Black Lives Matter activists targeted in Seattle. The revolution always devours its own; even if in Seattle it was more a case of a shouting match between self-proclaimed standard bearers and aging left-wing activists. There is clearly a problem with police forces being overly militarized, but to say it is merely a white versus black problem is a falsehood. In Baltimore the six cops charged with the brutal detaining of Freddie Gray were evenly split in terms of race. And precisely in Baltimore, a sanctioned and subdued police force have been unable or unwilling to control a rising tide of violent crime.

Black Lives Matter have to shout down and silence Bernie Sanders precisely because he is an aging fellow radical, and to be relevant they need to out-radical everyone else. At least on a theatrical, symbolic level. For now, organized armed rebellion – God forbid – has not been a part of the Ferguson protests, even as they continue to be marred by violent behavior. So shouting down Bernie is an old story – much older than Bernie himself – and one that never has happy or productive endings.

And finally, if attempts to construct and equivalency between the sparring, or twittering, in the GOP race to the theatrics in Seattle, one would mistaken. BLM wanted silent obedience in Seattle, while GOP conservatives want to be heard, and the constitution to be respected. By their elected representatives. That’s the difference between the two revolutions.

A fair bit of bytes are being spent speculating on who Carly Fiorina will force off the next primetime debate roster in Simi Valley, California. Christie and Kasich, two all-in-all moderate GOP governors are slated as likely losers, along with Huckabee, an ex-governor. While the ex-governor of Arkansas almost certainly will be off the roster, all the fuss over Christie versus Kasich – who was treated like a front-runner by the hometown crowd last week – covers up the story of another GOP candidates who, at least in the latest PPP poll, has had a steady and impressive rise in his numbers. Maybe the media got a little tired of the Great-Neurosurgeon-Who-Will-Save-America story and decided not to focus on the fact that in the PPP poll, Carson is second. Yes that means he’s the one behind Trump who has 19% while Ben Carson comes in with 12%. Will Fox news use the PPP poll to place Ben’s pulpit palpably closer to the public-attention-getting center stage? As in right next to the most-hated-candidate-in-GOP-history-perhaps who still leads the polls?

Ben Carson started the debate in Cleveland a little nervously, a little more tense than his usual steady calming presence which has been winning over voters in what seems – for now at least – a sustainable way. But perhaps his lack of political experience really showed up in Cleveland when he did not come out with guns blazing and a precise focus the way Carly did. Ben’s speaking style may not work as well in a debate format where he has to share his precious few minutes with 9 others on the same stage. His strong finish, however, may have been just enough to keep his bandwagon rolling along at a reassuring rhythm. He will need to be both precise and convincing, as well as calm and assured, in the next debate. That’s an almost impossible ask, but he has no choice but to rise to the occasion. And, if some polls are any indication, he just might be up to the task.

Erik Erickson used to be an outsider. He may still be one, in terms of Republican Party establishment standards, or he may not. Maybe the Donald the Trump versus Erik the Red(head) brawl is a case of two hardheaded rams battering each other on the slippery slope of public opinion. Maybe Erik feels Trump went too far and struck him off the Red State gathering on principle. Maybe. Critics of Erickson – mostly on the right it seems – have rushed out of the woodwork to heap opprobrium on the commentator and radio personality. And Erickson has been known to make a sexist comment or two himself.

So where does that leave the GOP when Erickson’s kids and wife have to flee a hotel room in the face of a vocal if tiny protest group? If in fact it actually played out that way. It may not be the whirwind of hate, as he phrased it, but rather the season of witchcraft. As in the accusations of evil heresy being flung against just about every GOP candidate in one way or another. It feels like conflicting schisms in the Nicean council but the sparks and the accusations fly over what someone said as much as over who they are and what they stand for. And while the comparison may seem absurdly lofty given the sweaty jabs, it does make sense. What is being fought over is the soul of the Republican party, and a raging insurrection will not be appeased with moderate reforms. They want change from the ground up and if that means tearing down a few cherished institutions, and political careers, so be it. It is a tough audience and a vocal audience of disenchanted voters, and change is being forced on an unwilling GOP establishment. So Donald may not be the one to force that change – even though one cannot rule out that possibility – but it should be clear to strategists and big-money donors that the rules are changing and that their favored candidates may find themselves accused of heresy. And, rather than burned at the stake, they are forced to the edges, literally, of the debate.

He’s big and loud and makes outrageous comments but in the primetime debate he showed some substance, even while getting into a fierce scrap. Governor Christie really does have a grasp on issues like national security, and it is unavoidable that he would have a fight with Senator Paul. A fight which both went looking for. Could Christie have avoided making it so personal? Perhaps as a former US Attorney for New Jersey he feels entitled to go gunning for Paul, but that means that most will remember the scrap and not his command of the facts on entitlements, for example. And Rand himself with his bad hair seemed angry, defensive, and frazzled. As Trump suggested he did not have a good night.

Trump was Trump, but perhaps – despite his “I don’t have time to be politically correct” zinger – his lack of substantive detail to back up his statements started to show. It’s early days and there are several debates to go, but it will be interesting to see where his numbers are in a few months. Carson got precious little time – 38 minutes without a question from the moderators – and appeared a little nervous and tense in the beginning. But he finished strong and that just might help his numbers.

And while Rubio emerged as the darling of many observers – at least those who are not Democratic strategists – he seemed just a little too young and cute. But he had the best lines of the night and held his own against all those he faced, including his mentor Jeb Bush. Which leaves the question of how the former governor of Florida performed. He seemed a little more comfortable and fluid, but had no over-reaching moment that rose above the fray. Jeb Bush is like the college professor admired by his former students: even Trump called him a gentleman and seemed to mean it. Jeb is the only candidate in the GOP field who likely knows as many world leaders as Carly Fiorina. He’s statesmanlike, experienced, diplomatic and tough. He knows everyone who matters in the establishment – both Democrats and Republicans, both DC and Wall Street – and is smart in a low-key way. What a wonderful Secretary of State he would make with say, Carly Fiorina as his boss in the Oval Office.

With senior intelligence community members’ planned rebuttal to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture slated for release in a few weeks, an interesting sideline is the battle going on in the APA, or American Psychological Association. The so-called Hoffman Report, or the Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture is as critical or more-so of intelligence gathering in a war-on-terrorism environment as the Senate Report. Within the APA they are calling for the cutting of all links between the APA and National Security interrogations. Unless the psychologist is there to assist the accused, or to witness the process in the interest of human rights. In other words: Division 19 go away.

Division 19 is the Society for Military Psychology, which exists, for now, within the APA a civilian organization. That means that it matters to military psychologists how they work and interact with their civilian colleagues. But not according to critics of Division 19 and the PENS report, the report on Psychological Ethics and National Security. Both are seen by the progressive civilians within the APA as the military co-opting the whole organization for its own ends. The PENS report is no longer an operative guideline and if the critics have their way, the military will have nothing to do with the APA from here on.

The issue is whether psychology should ever be used as a weapon. But the debate doesn’t get framed that way for two reasons perhaps: clearly psychology should be weaponized under certain circumstances, so the left within the APA would rather frame the issue as conspiratorial creeping militarism invading their grand old society; and the military seem to have decided that such a blunt no-nonsense framing of the issue would give them bad press. The APA should keep Division 19 within their fold. Because psychology is and has been a part of conflict for a very long time and needs the best and latest research to be effective in a military or conflict-based context of any kind. And because a separate, secretive Society for Military Psychology would operate beyond the pale of any civilian criticism and containment. Do there already exist such units? One would be surprised if they didn’t, given the threats from inside and from outside. But Division 19 needs to remain within the APA. For reasons of War, and Peace.

Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois is not letting the outrage over the Planned Parenthood videos get in the way of his being a good GOP centrist. He has no plans to “cut access to basic health care and contraception for women, the majority of whom have on other resources.” That means he will not support any conservative efforts to defund PP on the hill. Apparently, his moderate bi-partisan stance assures, or at least provides a fighting chance, that the GOP will retain the senate seat in an arguably blue, but possibly red, state. And that’s what counts, as Republican party fundraiser Ron Gidwitz found out this week when he had to do a 180 degree turn after criticizing Kirk for some of his comments. Gidwitz was concerned that “misstatements” by senator Kirk could cause “collateral damage” to other GOP candidates on the ballot.

Whether Gidwitz was also concerned about Kirk’s lack of conservative credentials is doubtful. Back in May of 2013, Gidwitz lashed out at conservative state GOP members’ ousting of Pat Brady, then Illinois Republican Chairman. The issue was Brady’s advocacy of policies that ran directly against the GOP platform. So, Gidwitz – who has managed a fistful of failed gubernatorial campaigns – is firmly GOP establishment and his fuss over Kirk has to do with Kirk’s recent Trump-like comments. Not with the actual principles behind the pro-life versus pro-choice debate. It’s all about not being conservative – and not too too Republican either – in order to retain or gain seats in Illinois. Gidwitz is establishment – but local establishment – who angered the beltway establishment who have a Kirk or bust attitude to the senate seat that Mark Kirk now holds rather precariously. So whether Kirk is still senator in 2017 or a Democrat ends up winning the seat, you can be sure that whoever holds the seat, they will not vote for de-funding of Planned Parenthood.

An insurgency is a rebellion against a constituted authority. A revolt is an attempt to put an end to the authority of a person or a body. Inside the House and the Senate, do we have a conservative revolt? Or is Meadows using procedural theatrics to vent against Boehner without sufficient legislative support among conservative colleagues? And is Cruz merely lashing out at McConnell, rather than negotiating as he should instead be doing? Each of them would surely insist that he was doing battle in the interests of those he was elected to represent. Trade deal authority for the White House and Export-Import Bank non-liquidation might play well in some states like Washington, but not in North Carolina or Texas. And giving way on those two issues in the interest of governing which means getting bills passed, is not at the top of Meadow’s or Cruz’s districts’ priorities. And they likely do mean what they say as far as their voters are concerned.

And in FLA, a poll shows that Jeb and Rubio are behind you-know-who. Is it a populist insurgency? At both ends of the spectrum with Bernie Sanders building momentum in what many thought would be an invisible campaign? You-know-who won’t be at the Koch’s confab and Bernie Sanders debating Hillary would be a sight to see. What to say about Bernie? He had his bar mitzvah when Ike was barely halfway through his first term. He graduated from University of Chicago a year before Dylan went electric and shocked Newport folk fans. That same year he had the good sense to pick up a summer home in Vermont for what was surely a bargain price. And the Brooklyn native has been a Vermont resident since a year before Woodstock. And he wants America to resemble Sweden. The Sweden of the 1970’s one suspects rather than the dour slimmer version currently in place in Stockholm. He has shared climate-change panel discussions with Naomi Klein but despite her American parents she is Canadian like Ted Cruz. So Bernie would not be able to give her the Treasury Secretary job unless she took out her parent’s citizenship. And unless Bernie won the Democratic nomination and unless he then got elected. But oddly enough, in 2015-2016, Sanders or You-Know-Who as President is not as absurdly impossible a scenario as may have been imagined a few years ago. People are mad, and outsiders are in. Washington – whether DC or State – are surely taking notice.

While it is politically expedient to berate the Obama administration for increases in child poverty, it would have almost certainly happened under a GOP administration as well. The challenges of education and a constantly changing economy that renders large swaths of workers obsolete with the stroke of a keyboard as businesses move jobs and production to where they can earn a profit, are major challenges. And they are at the heart of increasing child poverty. The same stats that broke down poverty according to ethnicity, also shows that almost half of all Native and African American children have no parent with full-time permanent employment. But they also show that 24% of Non-Hispanic White children face the same problem: a single parent, or both parents living from paycheck to paycheck, with no job security. Relatively little job security is a fact of life right across the social and economic spectrum.

Unfortunately, laying on the union regulations will only drive more businesses away from any jurisdiction that tries that approach. How to provide flexible solutions – like jobs-relevant education for parents and sustainable public schools that actually teach their pupils the increasingly complex skills needed to get a decent job – when Mothers from wealthy communities screech against their daughters having to learn too much at school? If they are frustrated, how is a welfare mother feeling about her kids’ D average in 8th grade? Resigned? Exhausted? Depressed? How to build faith in their ability to provide their kids a reasonable start when we can’t agree on what to teach in schools? Or how to teach it?

Local and flexible solutions are the only way out. That means giving local communities the resources, but more importantly, the control over how to spend those resources. What works in Brooklyn may not work in Missouri. And also to keep in mind we are dealing with relative poverty. Yes, relative poverty matters greatly, but large parts of the world live at or below America’s poverty line, measured in real and absolute terms. Progress is being made, but not nearly fast enough to prevent kids from slipping into relative poverty. We need a public education system that inspires faith in its ability to provide children with a fighting chance, no matter what neighborhood they live in. And that’s a job for each community to solve, on each community’s own terms as much as reasonably possible.

While Scott Walker holding up a 1 dollar bill in sweaty mid-summer campaign is a nifty image for devolution of power back to the state and local level, the process started in the early 70’s with Richard Nixon. What had been dual federalism with state and federal authority and responsibility clearly marked off from each other, began to intermingle with cooperative federalism from around 1937 with FDR at the height of his presidency, up until 1960 when Kennedy was elected. Kennedy brought in creative federalism with Washington dictating how state governments spent their money more than had been the case. Local states had to be prodded into action by Washington on grand matters like the War on Poverty and minorities (although that had started with de-segregation under Eisenhower). LBJ proved more than willing to continue prodding and it wasn’t until Nixon’s second term that the tide began to flow back the other way. With Watergate drowning out positive achievements, it was Reagan a decade later who took more of the credit when he embraced what Nixon had started. By 1986, revenue sharing between the federal government and states was terminated.

But new federalism – as it is called – still had and still has a way to go. Although H.W. Bush and Clinton continued with new federalism – Clinton as much because House Republicans gave him no choice – George W. Bush turned back the tide of devolution with his education bill in 2002. And islamic terrorism required a coordinated federal response with the creation of DHS. As well, George W. Bush’s support for an amendment prohibiting gay and lesbian marriages was also an interference in the rights of those states that wished to legalize gay marriage. It is now precisely the opposite case, with individual states that wished to continue to define marriage in traditional ways being forced by the Supreme Court to allow gay marriage in their own state. That is more about the Separation of Federal branches, but state rights have historically been bound up with thorny social questions.

So while Scott Walker’s push for further devolution back to states and local governments is certainly a way to achieve lasting and sustainable fiscal accountability – look at him sweating away with George Washington between his fingers – it has always been as much about social policy as it has been about fiscal policy. And surely a President Walker would have to defend his worthwhile crusade on social grounds as much as by criticizing and promising to change Washington waste and fraud.

The Washington Examiner- hardly a liberal paper – has a problem with its own readers, many of them conservative GOP voters. So it came out hard to do a little house cleaning with an editorial that spent much of its time attacking GOP voters. If you don’t line up behind Rubio, Jeb, or Walker, you are a troll, in case you didn’t realize. If you are angry about illegal immigration, you are a racist. If you do not agree with the possibility of Rubio, Jeb, or Walker as the GOP presidential candidate, you really want Hillary in the White House. This isn’t lining up voter-ducks. This is duck hunting with a machine gun from an official Republican Party HQ-sponsored duck blind.

The excuse to attack conservative GOP voters was Donald Trump. And they saved plenty of ammunition for the Donald who apparently is: a Democrat-turned-GOP, a “bouffant billionaire”, ignorant about political positions, and a liberal until recently. He really must have hit a nerve among the GOP establishment, especially since he has polled – at least in some surveys – far higher than anyone expected. Is he all of the things listed above? Perhaps. But does he resonate with a certain percentage of GOP voters? Absolutely. Will he win the nomination? Of course not. Is he an indicator of voter anger on certain issues. Again, absolutely. In a historically broad and competitive field, all the GOP needed was for Trump to shake things up even more than was already the case.

The editorial has Hillary’s negatives in three swing states as its substance. But those states are Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia. So no surprise that she polls low there. And of course she can be beaten, and with the right candidate will be defeated. But how that GOP candidate gets decided on is becoming a bit of a civil war inside the GOP. The dividing line seems to be whether to pin the party’s hopes on a centrist big-tent candidate or on a conservative candidate that the establishment feels will isolate the GOP as the party of older white males whose time is almost up. That nasty little metaphor comes from the same editorial. Is it now open season on conservative voters inside the GOP itself? With bunker-style duck blinds and machine guns?

Get with it. It’s not Too Big To Fail, or TBTF; it’s Systematically Important Financial Institutions, or SIFI’s, or Sifis. If you go with TBTF, then it’s Dodd-Frank. If you go with Sifis, then it’s Basel III. Was Dodd-Franks necessary in the wake of the 2008 meltdown and the following Great Recession? Was Glass-Steagall necessary in the wake of the collapse of banks in the 30’s following, but not immediately following, the Crash of ’29? We still can’t agree on what precipitated and then kept the Great Depression in place for a decade or so. And we’re arguing about the Great Recession as well, of course.

That is, we can’t agree from the relative comfort and safety of a think-tank office a couple of generations from those dark days in the Dirty Thirties when a former Treasury Secretary (Glass), and a chairman of the House Banking Committee, (Steagall), put walls between investment banking and insurance on one side, and commercial banking on the other. All in order to prevent deposits from vanishing in the wake of liquidity crisis brought about by risk-taking on the part of omnivorous over-sized banks.

The act was repealed in 1999 and 8 years later the housing bubble started popping, and 9 years later the world’s financial system came uncomfortably close to absolute zero: a gridlocked freeze-up of interbank liquidity in the face of counterparty risk paralysis. If you’re a true libertarian you would have let Wall Street crash, banks go under and common savers lose most or all of what they had deposited in their bank, whether local or money center. Then after the Great Brush Fire had burned away most of what was left standing, you would see the green shoots of a true recovery. Many, however, view this purist libertarian vision of how-to-handle-a-financial-crisis-by-doing-sweet-eff-all with a certain degree of horror.

The problem is how to do just enough regulatory meddling without putting yet another Frank-enstein in motion. It may be that Basel III and it’s capital requirements would have been enough and that Dodd-Frank is a beast that feeds on the fees lawyers, regulators, and ex-legislators-turned-wealthy-lobbyists charge to help guide TBTF banks through it’s zombie-like structure. Thousands and thousands of pages worth of rules and regulations. All which create added costs of entry and hurt smaller more prudent banks. Between excessive moral hazard and no moral hazard, both dangerous extremes, there has to be a reasonable regulatory outcome. Washington, unfortunately, seems congenitally incapable of seeking such a regulatory outcome.

As if the state of California isn’t struggling bad enough with it’s fires and water shortages, there’s a new dilemma that affects all parents and children in the state. With the passing of SB277, children will be required to be vaccinated in order to attend schools. Passing this bill was a split reaction to stop anti-vaxers in their tracks and to increase vaccination. However, this just isn’t the correct way of achieving that goal.

Currently the population is protected from infectious diseases because of the high percentage of people already vaccinated, but there now vaccinated children who didn’t have a specific vaccine like “Chicken Pox” that will be kicked out of school until updated. One outcome of this is forcing children into homeschooling.

I’m not defending anti-vaxers by any means, but this about measles it falls into the government having control that it shouldn’t. This bill is open ended, therefore vaccines can be added into it without any voting or approval from anyone but the CDC. The group that also approves the food on the shelves feeding an obesity epidemic. Nothing but shady business. The government should not have the authority to dictate a medical procedure of any kind.

It’s also entirely comical that Governor Brown, a Democrat, supports pro-choice for women to have the right to choose, yet signed a bill mandating the medical decisions for a child a women chooses to have or not have. This bill isn’t protecting¬†individual rights, and¬†violates “inalienable rights” of life, liberty and property. If you’re more comfortable with collective rights over individual rights, catch a place to a communist nation.

Jade Helm 15 sounds like the umpteenth sequel of a Chuck Norris series of action films. Or a girl band from Singapore. Apparently it is neither of these things, but rather a Realistic Military Training, or RMT, exercise in the Southwest that will last 2 months from mid-July to mid-September. While the DOD has been fairly proactive about informing the public over how their communities may be affected, it has not said too much about what purpose in the real world this exercise will be preparing elite military members for. No, this is not to join the conspiracy theories abounding, especially in Texas. Rather, one wonders if this is to prepare ground troops, for example, for re-entry into the Middle East.

A key part of the controversy is the map released by the DOD that shows an exercise targeting friendly, hostile and neutral states – with the neutral states leaning either hostile, or friendly. That Texas and Utah are hostile – along with a pocket of Southern California – has been manna to the conspiracy theorists. The more interesting question, aside from the fact that private property owners have invited the military in, is where abroad are the conditions in summer in that swath of the country replicated? Not just terrain, but politically: as in several states of varying degrees of hostility clustered in a relatively contiguous manner, with terrain that is mountainous, rugged, and arid? All of them drenched in blistering heat – at least during the day?

It does seem to be an RMT exercise that would allow troops to experience Middle Eastern-like conditions before being shipped out to join the chaotic ever-changing battleground centered in Syria and Iraq. And Jade Helm 15 – way more than they expected – makes communication with or against locals an important objective. As U.S. Army Operations Command’s released report on the exercise states:

“To hone advanced skills the military and Interagency require large areas of undeveloped land with low population densities with access to towns … to challenge joint and IA personnel during planning and execution of their tasks. These challenges include:
– Operating outside the normal support mechanisms
– Adapting to unfamiliar terrain, social and economic conditions
– Operating in and around communities where anything out of the ordinary will be spotted and reported (Locals are the first to notice something out of place)
– The opportunity to work with civilians to gain their trust and an understanding of the issues”

In other words, part of the exercise is how invisible military units can be with regard to locals noticing anything different. Clearly this is a very focused exercise whose complete purpose will not be divulged by the DOD precisely because it may impact on any planned operation. That planned operation would clearly seem to be abroad and not in the heart of the Southwest. Still, there’s something a touch unsettling about the whole operation, even if it is clearly a necessary exercise.

How’s your mother-in-law unit doing? No, this refers to a detached, semi-detached, or attached separate living unit on a property with a main unit. Also called a secondary suite, a granny flat, a garage apartment, or a basement suite. In Seattle, density and infrastructure are pressing issues apparently. Traffic backed up to a crawl, commuters dozens deep at a single bus stop waiting for one that they actually squeeze into. New developments demanding those sewer and water lines and all the other services needed to make a sub-division livable. And municipal planners wondering whether to delay development until adequate infrastructure is in place, like Redmond did during the first big boom in the late 80’s and 90’s.

The concept is called concurrency: infrastructure build out has to be concurrent with development. No added roads, services, schools … no development. On the other hand, density might offer a way to lessen the pace of suburban sprawl, but still means that existing infrastructure has to be expanded to make sure all those public transit riders don’t have to wait in a chilly PacWest drizzle to board their bus to work. In other words, Seattle has a wonderful problem that places like Las Vegas and Cleveland and even Miami would love to have: a prosperous local economy that has a strong niche in the global economy (several in fact), and needs to spend some more on public infrastructure because people have good jobs and need to get themselves to and from those jobs and their kids to and from school.

Pushing the density envelope, (more dwellers squeezed into the same urban or even suburban space), are urban environmentalists that want us all to live in modest-sized apartment buildings at least 4 or 5 stories tall. Next step for them is to bulldoze the suburbs and turn, Redmond for example, into farmland. Then existing distant farmland would be allowed to slowly return to wilderness. And coyotes and buffalo would roam the continent again, as God intended. Ok, coyotes already do, and they don’t mind the suburbs apparently. Rebelling against the concept of density, are those suburbs that are so wrapped up in municipal building codes that even putting a sidewalk down would require several all-night city council sessions to change the law, assuming the council votes for more flexible building codes. Clearly this is a local problem with a plethora of local solutions. And if folks in say, Dallas, want to clamp down on secondary suites because they tend to attract illegal migrants as renters, that is their decision. Density is up to each municipality to deal with as they see fit. From Seattle to Miami.

Marriage, and divorce, are all about the law. They are more than the law, especially marriage, but the law extends into every intimate corner of a marriage, and even more so in the case of divorce. Just ask the 3 kids of successful professionals and divorced parents in Detroit who will be spending summers in a juvenile detention center as a result of their parent’s ugly divorce. Yes Family Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca seems to have lost her sense of perspective by punishing the kids for refusing to obey the judge’s order “to have a healthy relationship with your father.” And the specific cause was a refusal to have lunch with their dad. But with the state through it’s judiciary intimately involved in the day to day details of a family suffering the consequences of an acrimonious divorce, this was inevitable.

When the judiciary controls marriage and divorce to such an extent, a decision by Judge Gorcyca may be harsh, but it is a logical result of such control. It will be interesting to see who appeals this decision or somehow adjusts her remedy. Should Judge Gorcyca have placed the responsibility – the legal responsibility – for a healthy relationship on the children? Rather than the parents? Because the implication of the Judges other comments are that the mother is guilty of the worst sort of brainwashing of her children, turning them against their father. If that is the case, how in the world can you send brainwashed kids to juvenile detention until they are 18? Summer detention for now, with a threat that it could become full-year detention. Judge Lisa berated the elder son for his “horrific behavior” towards his dad, and said she has wanted to send them to detention for some time now but backed off due to their father’s pleas.

It seems that Judge Lisa has let this case get under her skin. And has lost her perspective. Maybe the kids, aided by a manipulative and vengeful mother, have indeed behaved horribly toward their father. Sending them to detention will likely make matters worse in this regard. As a way to ensure that her authority in court is upheld, this sentencing can be seen as absurdly tough, but comprehensible. As a remedy to bring a family closer together, it seems an absurd invasion of the state into a family’s life. But the battling parents called in the lawyers and resorted to hard ball tactics. This is what can happen. The parents will have to live with the consequences of that. And their unfortunate kids, even more so.

Will New Hampshire rescue Kasich, Christie, and Graham? Or is the McCain miracle of 2008 a unique, one-off case that should not be extrapolated beyond that one-time context 7 years ago? New Hampshire is intimate and every vote counts, but do New Hampshire GOP voters allow any old outsider into their minds and hearts? Clearly not. In other words, how big a base outside of the Granite State do they need in order to do well in New Hampshire? And even if they do, will it be sustainable?

But there’s another way of looking at the New Hampshire primary: what if other primaries in 2016 become more like New Hampshire’s? It seems impossible given the cost structure of media exposure in other markets and the primary calendar itself. But 2016 may just be different enough and GOP voters may just be willing enough to vote for a far wider range of candidates to make it possible. Imagine a GOP field still fairly crowded by the time March rolls around. After South Carolina in other words. Imagine it stays crowded through March. Impossible? Perhaps by Super Tuesday, March 1, it will have been decided as usual.

Imagine if not? While concentrating primaries into staggered schedules helps candidates focus time and money, it also means the contest is over by March. And it’s the party structure that decides and allocates delegates. Delegates may be local but it’s all about how they get chosen. And that gets decided at party headquarters. Maybe it’s cruel to outsiders – and one can argue how much of an outsider in terms of the party structure McCain really was – but its supporters would say it ensures a winning GOP candidate. And that, they say, is the only goal that matters. That attitude does not sit will with conservatives, be they Tea Party supporters or not. And it has not always produced winning candidates either. So will New Hampshire matter? Undoubtedly it will. Even if does not rescue Christie, Kasich, or Graham.

If Carly Fiorina was male, would conservative media pay so much attention? Clearly not, even though her campaign seems to impress those who have had direct contact with the ex-tech leader. Her campaign manager, Frank Sadler, promoted her in the Washington Examiner as:

an articulate, fearless conservative woman who terrifies the Clinton camp and won’t let the liberal media put her in a box
That might be a touch overdone, in terms of the Clinton camp: Fiorina is running 11th in the GOP field and the likelihood of her taking on Hillary as the GOP candidate is about the same as the probability that HP will start giving away ink for free. So should everyone just ignore her until she battles her way into say the top 6 or even top 8 contenders? Maybe not. Battle she will have to, but could it be that some GOP candidates are already thinking of her as a potential Vice President? She is pro-life and a successful, if controversial, business leader. She really really seems to want to get her toe, and why not the rest of herself, into a political office that has the weight to match her ambition. She is not a re-run and she seems to be full of the energy and focus needed to get anywhere in such a crowded field.

The question is can she sustain her campaign and climb high enough in the polls to get into the debates coming up in a month or two? And how do you do that with Trump sucking up airtime with his hard-wired ability to offend, provoke, and hit sensitive topics dead on? Carly Fiorina needs to say something noticeable. She needs an issue that she can leverage to get into the debates. Terrifying Hillary may be that issue, but likely is not. If anyone terrifies Hillary it is Liz Warren, and not Carly Fiorina. Carly is one of the boys in this crowded field and needs to throw a few elbows and raise a little ruckus just like she did at HP. She has the temper to do so, and should not hesitate. She just needs the moment, and the topic. Let’s see how good a scrapper she really is.

Will Greece implode? Will a Grexit cause the Euro to stutter and stumble? Europe has had several years to prepare for such an eventuality. German banks and the German government especially, have had to do a fair bit of stick waving as well as the occasional carrot dangling, seeing they’re up to their necks in Greek debt. The end game may finally be upon us and one hopes the Eurozone will avoid a serious meltdown, having had a few years to prepare for this slow-motion car crash. Whether one agrees with the austere spending cuts demanded by mostly northern members of the Union, the fact is that Greece paints an uncomfortable picture for America.

Yes, the USA owns its own printing press, but people or governments still have to hold the debt that results from years of deficit spending. How high is US government debt? One can argue net vs gross debt, given inter-governmental liabilities like the Social Security Administration’s trust fund, which is soon set to go into the red. The trust fund is not included in net debt definitions. But gross debt is still debt and has to be paid back eventually by taxing citizens and corporations. With gross debt as the statistical measure, the US has about 104% of it’s GDP mortgaged off as future obligations. Greece is now above 150%, but some projections warn that America is on the same statistical path when it comes to debt as Greece was about a decade or two ago.

And the ace up the sleeve of the Treasury Department is the US dollar’s standing as the reserve currency of the world. One has to remember, however, that this status did not magically appear one day as the result of some decree signed by central bankers around the world. Bretton Woods was important but the dollar became the reserve currency because savers around the world, whether individuals or companies or governments, recognized the inherent value of America’s currency. And this was so because America historically had it’s finances well under control, or was able to pay them back promptly when public debt grew rapidly as a result of wartime spending, for example. This is no longer the case. The best that can be hoped for is that entitlement spending – and that includes corporate giveaways and bank rescues – grow at a steady and predictable pace. To actually expect entitlement spending to fall on an absolute level is too radical and too financially prudent to be in the subset of possible policy options.

And the warnings about a Greek style debt debacle right in America may seem statistically distant. People don’t care about the issue do they? Guess what, voters do. And voters understand that a change in say, China’s sovereign wealth fund’s investment policy, would exert dramatic pressure on America’s finances. And the worst part of that is, it’s outside America’s control. Precisely because the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency, it depends on the faith of the world in America’s fiscal probity. And more than that, it requires that no other exogenous factors – like military conflict – undercut that good faith. The main argument against this happening is that all SWF’s are in the same boat and do not want to sink along with the dollar. That, as any investment fund manager will tell you, is a very dangerous foundation to rest your financial fate on. While not all, or even a majority, of voters would say the USA is bankrupt, they do worry about government dealing with it’s debts. Just like they worry, and deal, with their own personal debts. Policy wonks, please keep that in mind.

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