Want to Believe
Sunday 15th of November 2020 11:49:11 PM
I have been asked to do a lecture/question and answer program on the subject of my experience with my father and his work in the CIA and how growing up in the Middle East influenced me and what I might have learned from my father. Thinking about the subject several things come to mind. First my father was - to say the least -"colorful" and did indeed get up to all sorts of activities one might expect from a CIA operative. And he was not averse to exaggerate especially if it made a point. He used to tell me "dont let the truth stand in the way of a good story". As I realized it later this was really a lesson in marketing - a lesson I put to good use in later years in the Music Business. He never made up activities but he was willing to exaggerate - which is what advertising and marketing is really all about. Push the envelope of truth so to speak. What did I learn? I could add this: "Never assume the truth will stand in the way of people believing what they want to believe'. The Middle East is full of conspiracy theories and now I see them running rampant right here in the USA. I always knew religions were capable of creating really outlandish beliefs so any belief is possible. Jim Jones, the Hale Bob people, Qanon, Scientology, and the like. People will believe anything if they WANT to believe it. The trick is to either tap into what they want to believe OR figure out a way to make them believe.
Meanwhile I have watched in amazement the claims about a rigged election. I wonder if it has donned on the Trump fans that if this election was rigged - especially in Republican states - then surely the last election was also rigged. Trump said last time that it was rigged just like he says the same thing now. You cant have it both ways. ALSO, with so many Trump appointees to the bench, and the landslide he got, and his millions of supporters how could a guy like that loose to a bunch of low level counters many of whom voted for him. Doesnt make sense. BUT then again - its people believing what they want to believe.
There was another important lesson my father gave me. In fact it was based on a quote from Lenin. Basically I you can define the terms you are nine tenths towards winning the argument. I saw this in England in the 70s where Socialism was good and Capitalism was bad. Most people could not tell you what either meant. Today we see the same thing in the US. Many in Florida equat the word "socialism" with Cuba and Venezuela. I doubt if 99% of those people can tell you what socialism means. Most think it is the same as communism - which it is not. They also dont know that Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Germany and many other countries are "socialist". Also ask those same people how they like Medicare and they will say "great!. So if you hate socialism I assume you want to terminate medicare as medicare is "socialism". It distresses me that neither the media nor the Democratic party seem to understand the need to educate the public as to what these - now emotional terms - really mean. Even one of my sons said to me recently "doesnt socialism mean there are no elections?" NO. Every socialist country has elections. Dictatorships are the ones that dont have elections, or have elections controlled by the dictator. Iran has elections - except they only allow "approved" candidates to run. Same as China. Even Russia has elections - but they are controlled by Putin. It can also be argued that the USA is also not a full democracy as our founding fathers did not like the idea of majority rule - which is why there is an electoral college. Why 40 million Californians are represented by two Senators and several million Dakotans are represented by 4 Senators.
Lastly, the way to know what is really going on, one has to get as many inputs - especially opposite ones and then use common sense to work out what is true and not. Those that watch only Fox news are not going to get full information. Personally I watch Fox, CBS, MSNBC, BBC, France 24, PBS news, If you only get news from once source - that makes you an idiot.
Sunday 8th of November 2020 03:41:50 AM
It may be gratifying that Joe Biden won the election but one has to note that Trump, after all the books exposing his faults and the constant flow of horrible reports from the many employees he fired,and indeed the silly tweets from the President himself, STILL he won a huge proportion of the American public. That is scary in itself. I am reminded of the many film documentaries on Adolf Hitler, and the look of the adoring fans and supporters and the view among them that he could do no wrong. In the beginning even people who did not like him and his racist rhetoric figured, at least he got the trains running on time and he is good for business so they went along and supported him. They figured his nastier instincts could be controlled. Eventually his power grew to a degree that they could NOT control him and we know what happened. There are similarities in the Trump story. Mitch McConnel and the Republicans in general figured they could use him to get what they wanted - like a useful idiot - and they were right. I wager that Mitch and a whole bunch of Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief that Trump lost AND they maintained all their seats and even added a few in the House. In another term Trump might well have gained too much control and indeed perverted the system to the point they could end up like those Germans who thought they could prevent Hitler's excesses. Meanwhile the bad news is over seventy million Americans voted for a really bad guy and many believed even his most outrageous lies. The good news is that over the next few years the Trump predictions of disaster with a biden Biden win will prove to be bullshit. Perhaps then they might begin to believe that he is just a boastful lier who figures truth is for idiots- or as Mitt Romney said, a con man. I am not surprised Trump has not conceded, just proves yet again the man has no class.
Thursday 5th of November 2020 07:48:46 AM
Two things: yesterday I and my wife took a drive to Beverly Hills and saw major streets blocked by police, boarded up shops, banks, hotels, all with an expectation there would be trouble If Trump did not win the election. That alone tells you where this country has sunk to in the last 4 years. A shocking spectacle for a nation that has been the light of the world for democracy. Whether one supports his policies or not one thing for sure he has damaged this country to a degree I never thought possible.
Meanwhile I just watched a rant by Sean Hannity, a disgraceful grievance laden tirade of bullshit, lies, and utter nonsense - projecting on others what Trump and guys like him have foisted on the American Public. He will go down in history as the buffon we always knew he was. No shame, no class, He was happy to say Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were counting ballots correctly 4 years ago but now he has reversed his position saying he does not trust the count. If it goes your way its all good - if not you spew anger. The mark of a classic poor looser.
Bob Lefsetz podcast
Tuesday 27th of October 2020 06:15:12 PM
It was fun to do Bob's podcast. Thanks to all those who wrote that they liked it.
Tuesday 27th of October 2020 06:12:27 PM
Glad to see the Go Go's documentary that is airing on Showtime got lots of attention. That band deserves a lot more credit for their achievements than they usually get. First all women group to have a number one album in the USA - and with songs THEY wrote and played. Also for me, a great achievement for my little IRS label that everyone laughed at until they had that Number one.
Saturday 24th of October 2020 05:40:40 PM
Though I hate to admit it, My father would have liked Donald Trump. Not for his politics - as my father's view was that even an idiot can get things right occasionally just like a broken clock is correct twice a day. But Trump's ability to tell a lie like he actually believes it AND even better tell a lie he knows is false would have appealed. Trump would have fit in with my father's mantra "dont let the truth stand in the way of a good story". He would have agreed whole hartedly with the "shit hole countires" statement becasue Yes many countries ARE indeed "shit hole countries". Basically, my father was always fascinated by people with "no moral compass" as the latitude that gave to do what was necessary is a distinct advantage. Remember, my father once complained that "the USA did not overthrow enough governments. " He was also of the view that one cant get angry when an animal, germ or whatever does what is in its nature to do. You cant get angry at a Tiger who attacks you and eats you. Its in it's DNA and its not it's fault any more than a Diphtheria germ that gets you sick. Don't get angry - just figure a way to beat it or avoid it. My father was was at first a big believer in FDR but over the years gravated to old school Republican ideals. Strong defense, low taxes, etc. I don't think he would have understood the Trump Putin connection nor the North Korea stunt - both pretty naive and stupid. He would also have been sick to see the evangelical religious types take over of the Republican party. How could a party of what he would call "common sense" go for shit like that? And Qanon? well that would top it off. The Republican party of today and what ever "Trumpism" is would have him thinking the monkeys have taken over the zoo.
Cut to the chase
Tuesday 20th of October 2020 04:29:49 PM
Watching TV so much as many are doing these days - not just Trump - I realize that what I saw yesterday several times is the realissue of the election. Forget the virus, foreign policy, health care, protests, China, jobs, and all the other talking points of either side. When Trump supporters say: " if Trump wins then the election was fair. If he looses then it is was fraudulent. " That means the real issue is democracy itself. When it is said by men armed with assault weapons it is downright scary. That is why so many say Trump is "dangerous". If for that reason only Trump has to go. 4 years from now will be too late. If the USA descends into "my way or the highway" then we are all fucked. Republican AND Democrat.
Monday 19th of October 2020 08:08:39 PM
Funniest thing I heard last week was an avid Trump supporter who said he was making 4 times as much money under Trump than in the previous regime. When asked what his job was he said "debt collector. "
Meanwhile I am thankful for two things Trump has helped expose. First he has put a clear wedge between the words "Evangelical" and "Christian". The point being that the values of Jesus Christ and the Bible - turn the other cheek, the meek shall inherit the earth, are not in evidence in Trump world while slagging off everyone that does not agree, boastful pronouncements, mean spirited tweets are. To find "Christian" reasons to support Trump if run into a computer would spit out "does not compute".
At the same time he has exposed the "pro Life" supporters are nothing more than "anti abortion" supporters. Pro life is a phony brand name as if you add up ALL the Trump policies from loosening environmental controls on contaminants that kill people - not to mention his handling of the corona virus, more people will die because of him than any prevention of abortions. I can understand people being against the idea of abortion but lets call it that: anti abortion and NOT pro life.
Wednesday 14th of October 2020 05:25:00 PM
Politicians in favor of Universal Health Care have stated that if your taxes go up to pay for the health care are less than the cost one is paying for insurance (and one no longer needs to pay those high insurance rates) then the net effect is a decrease in an individual's annual expenses. In other words: one hand gives - the other hand takes away. The question politically is: is there a difference in cost to the individual? Trump has done the same thing regarding taxes. He has lowered tax rates (though it is argued most of the benefits go to the rich) BUT at the same time he has levied tariffs on goods imported into the US. Those tariffs are paid by the US consumer so in effect are a new tax. Trump says over and over that those tariffs are paid by China or whoever but that is not what tariffs are. The exporter does not pay, the importer (ie US companies and consumers) pay. So tariffs are a tax in the US. As far as the government is concerned it does not matter if one lowers income tax and the reduction in revenue is offset by income from tariffs. The net effect is the same. Meanwhile, no matter who gets elected there will be no option but to raise taxes AND keep the tariffs. The government needs to find a way to recoup the huge payments re the virus which has ballooned the debt to levels never before imagined. There is also one other cost issue that is rarely mentioned. Sure, eliminating and lowering regulation standards today will help make profits easier to make, and should result in more jobs today BUT might (and some say for sure) increase the costs of dealing with environmental impact in the future. Fires, Hurricanes, Tornados, sea level rise all will cost huge amounts to deal with. All are costs that are born by government so funding for the damage repair, prevention and the like has to come from somewhere. Clean air, water etc. are also issues that cost money to solve. So one hand decreasing todays costs will mean the other hand paying the costs in the future. The likelihood is that the future costs will dramatically outweigh the benefits of today. For me, the biggest danger of the Donald Trump era is whatever benefit one can say we gain today; and there are some; seeds are planted that will lead to a world we don't want to see tomorrow. Unfortunately Trump looks for "wins" today so he can look good TODAY. Tomorrow is not his problem. But it will be ours.
Monday 12th of October 2020 10:43:58 PM
My mother's brother Ian Adie was a highly respected China expert and worked for Australian intelligence while also a professor at Canberra University. He once warned that we should hope China stays communist as Mao made it because if it ever adopted a 'capitalist' style approach they will take over everything in a matter of a few decades. I don't think he imagined China as it is today - but gobbling up everything he was not far off the mark. I have managed to keep up with some of his China expert buddies - students he trained and the like. What I hear from them is interesting. We hear that China does not like Trump and would rather Biden be in the White House. However that is largely incorrect. China indeed thinks Trump is bad news in the short term, but they see him as a sure fire way to decrease American power and influence in the world, so long term they absolutely want to see him reelected. And they see that given 4 more years he may be able to set up America on a course of decline even after he leaves the White House. In other words they see Trump as a useful idiot. Funny thing is that Russia sees him in exactly the same light and both are now working together imagining a new world order without American domination. All this talk about Trump being a danger for the future - well - it's true. His support base and enablers have simply thought of their short term interests and buried their heads in the sand. Its like American business thinking of the quarterly reports, the stock market today, my job now. China thinks in terms of 5 year plans. We take the short view - China takes the long view. The long view usually wins out.
Sunday 11th of October 2020 06:47:16 PM
Some might say Donald Trump does NOT see the big picture - I Disagree. However, the problem is that the big picture he sees is 'How does it fit into his personal interests'. That explains the relationship with Putin. When he is over being President he will revert to wanting to build a hotel or other major building in Moscow.
On the 'Promises Made - Promises kept' front I am waiting for these:1. During the last election Trump complained that Obama played golf too much and that were he President he would not play golf because there was so much work to do. He has played more golf during his presidency than any President in history. 2. Obama Care was to be 'repealed and replaced'. He went a long way towards the repeal part but no more mention of the 'replace' part other than the plan will come out in a few weeks. Its almost 4 years and we are still waiting. 3. The Wall? Of course the "Mexico will pay for it" claim never happened and disappeared from his speaches. Meanwhile he said recently some 380 miles of it have been built and we find out that of those most of the milage was replacing old wall and very few miles are new wall. Also some of that new wall is already falling down with weak foundations. 4. He was going to release his taxes. Still has not happened and he is still trying to stop release. If he has nothing to hide why not release? and if he is correct that the $750 he paid in Federal Tax last year is fake news, easy to prove by releasing his taxes. What's the problem? Just release your fuckin taxes and end the story. 5. Ended the Iran deal which he claimed was so bad but he has not managed to get any replacement and now Iran is closer than ever before to being able to build a nuclear weapon. No question a serious blunder of foreign policy. 6. Ending NAFTA and TPA turns out changes were mere tweaks and no huge change. So apparently they were not so bad after all. 7. American companies are going to flood back to the US from China. Only a few came back and job export still happening BECAUSE in a capitalist system labor is a cost that every company tries to reduce so they can make additional profits. It's still cheaper to manufacture outside the US. 8. Getting rid of over regulation. What regulations were changed? It turns out the main changes allowed more pollution of land, water and air. 9. Lowered taxes. Did that but most went to the very rich. Disparity between the rich and poor increased during Trump presidency. 10. Was going to make America respected around the world. Well, that is a joke and the opposite happened. 11. Was going to "rebuild the Military". Definitely increased spending and added stuff but just as the French did after World War I he increased the military imaging the world of the previous wars. It takes Billions of Dollars to build an aircraft carrier BUT it only takes a Million Dollars to sink it. The Chinese and Russians have plenty of carrier sinking munitions at vastly lower cost so should a war happen those new ships are gone. 12. Global Warming. He is looking pretty wrong on that one. And when history looks back he will not look good. it will be a huge black mark on his legacy. 13. Worst of all, American is more divided than ever AND we are not looked upon with the same favor by the rest of the peoples of the world.
Friday 9th of October 2020 06:11:49 PM
People wonder with all the negative news about Donald Trump, books from people who know him - whatever - HOW could he still have unshakable followers? Lets not forget in the final days of World War 2 in Germany, Hitler still had people fervently supporting him in spite of what they could see with their own eyes. Some believed that he had a secret weapon that would save them. Some refused to believe the Holocaust. The truth is people will believe what they want to believe and rationalize to an incredible degree to validate such belief. Fake News is a convenient retort to facts they would rather dismiss. Perhaps the most dramatic example of crazy thinking is the Qanon thing. If people can believe that crazy stuff - they will believe in anything. Then there was the Hale-Bopp Comet people who killed themselves to catch a ride on the Comet. How crazy is that? Yep, crazy is all around.
Pastor Samuel Rodriguez
Friday 9th of October 2020 04:51:03 PM
I was just listening to Samuel Rodriguez on the Amanpour & Co. TV program and once again the word "socialism" was used by a person who has no idea what the word means. To Mr. Rodriguez he imagines "Socialism" is what happens in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua which may be socialism in name but are better described as dictatorships or communist and no mention of Norway, Germany, Holland, France, or the so many advanced countries that apply the same "socialist" principles that some to the left of the Democratic Party espouse. He claims that because he is "Latino" he knows the meaning of socialism - which he does not.
The problem is, for those of us who are educated to the meaning of words, and political philosophies people like Samuel Rodriguez may mean well and really believe what they are saying but in reality what we see is a sign on their forehead that reads "I am an uneducated fool and don't know what I am talking about". The fact that this guy is in the position to influence others makes his lack of knowledge disturbing and in fact down right dangerous.
Tuesday 29th of September 2020 04:19:27 PM
With the debate today between Joe Biden and Donald Trump one thing is for sure. Trump has a BIG advantage. When one candidate believes his statements must be tethered to the truth and one candidate can say whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear and the truth does not matter it is pretty obvious who has the advantage. Lies told over and over again start to stick. That's why Trump always adds "crooked" or "sleepy" in front of his opponent's name. The Democrats need to fight fire with fire and always refer to Trump with "nutty Trump". Or to really confuse the base "socialist Donald Trump". Trump has given away so much money due to the virus he easily can be called a socialist. Even better how about "looser Donald Trump". Bankruptcy, overwhelming debt, and jail might well be his future. So whatever he is now, in the end he will be a looser. And if there is anything he hates it is being called a "looser". What's worse is in the end he will make the American people the loosers.
Friday 25th of September 2020 05:01:08 PM
The reality of much voting in a Democracy is voting for the lesser of two evils. Most people like parts of a candidate's platform but not all of it. Some people vote on a single issue that is such a big deal for them that they will forget about faults no matter how many there are. That had a lot to do with Trump's win. Elections are won by a majority of those that vote. If there are 100 eligible voters and all show up to vote it takes 51 to win the election. If only 50 show up to vote it takes only 26 to win. Therefore those that don't vote actually ARE voting. That makes voter suppression exactly as important as voter turn out. For every Democrat that does not vote means one less Republican needs to vote - and visa versa.
The Virus and the left - right divide
Thursday 24th of September 2020 09:03:57 PM
How the Government has dealt with the virus should have thrown a monkey wrench into the capitalism vs socialism discussion. A pure capitalistic society would NOT have pumped a penny into any sort of stimulus program. No rent deferrals, no money to workers not getting paid, no unemployment checks. In a pure capitalist system if you dont have money tough luck. Perhaps that's the way it should be. Meanwhile Government stepping in to solve a societies pain is exactly the concept behind the idea of socialism. So the US response has proved that IN FACT the socialist ideal is very relevant in the US Government structure and it is generally accepted by BOTH Republicans AND Democrats that the Government has a responsibility to help the disadvantaged. SO the argument is really how much the Government is responsible for and how much it is not. Republicans say the Government should step up but not too much. The Democrats say it should step up more then the Republicans. The fight is between the two positions. Labeling one view socialist and the other not is ridiculous and totally incorrect. Are the Democrats more socialist than the Republicans? Yes but BOTH are socialists. At the same time Democrats are not are communist any more than Republicans are pure capitalists. So for all those people marching with anti "socialist" banners should understand the two points of view AND I hope they do not take one penny of employment, stimulus or whatever else is given to them from the Government. I found it very interesting that Donald Trump insisted that his name be on the bottom of the checks that were sent out to all those that lost work. Money that increased the debt to levels never seen or imagined before. That makes him probably the most socialist of Presidents ever.
Wednesday 23rd of September 2020 04:56:46 PM
When I look at the political landscape today I can't help but be depressed. Both Right and Left are confused and the commentators have lost control of the language to the point the public now relies on the internet where everything goes and you can choose to be indoctrinated by whatever you want and never hear opposing views. Even the owners of the internet platforms have lost control - the beast has been let loose and stopping it will be impossible in any "free society". The most misused word in the political world today is "socialism". Good to some, evil to others. "Capitalism" comes a good second and the reality is that BOTH in their extreme forms do not work. The best way to understand the idea of socialism is to look at how Insurance works. Insurance is actually pure socialism in that all the clients pay in money and only the ones that need it take money out. Add capitalism into the mix and the deal becomes everyone pays in and only the ones that need take out AND the money paid in exceeds the expected pay out so the Insurance company pockets the difference as profit. Capitalism is based on the market - ie the "people" deciding what they want and are willing to pay and the market supplies those wants. The problem is that we have learned that all people are not equal nor are they all moral so the temptation to exaggerate the benefits of a product or service so as to gain more clients can easily overshadow ones desire to be honest. Also the weak can loose to the strong so Capitalism left free of encumbrance soon turns to monopolism which by definition means the market no longer drives supply and demand so it is no longer capitalism. To correct this weakness in capitalism regulation has been used. Truth in advertising, truth in labeling, anti trust laws, building codes, safety laws etc etc have entered the equation to prevent capitalism from destroying itself. The right - left argument has come to focus on how much regulation is needed or desired. Prevent greed from getting out of hand while still maintaining personal incentive. Socialism in the extreme becomes Communism which is based on the idea that no one owns anything specifically but everything generally. In small terms the kubutz is the best example. Problem is this extreme idea never solved the idea of personal incentive so it failed. However, socialism is not a fixed concept any more than capitalism is. It goes from light gray to black - black is communism which is NOT the current meaning of socialism as much as Sean Hannity wants to describe it. So the best societies have combined elements of socialism and capitalism to meet somewhere in the middle and the left/right argument becomes as simple as how much is left to the individual and how much the government should be responsible for.
Sean Hannity argued on Fox the other day that socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried but then listed only communist countries. Communism and Socialism are NOT automatically the same thing. Actually, the most successful societies such as Norway, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Singapore. Australia, New Zeeland etc are more on the left (ie more socialist) than societies more in the right like the USA. The USA also has socialist elements such as Social Security and quite a few laws and programs that would fit a socialist political model. The flies in the ointment in all political formulas are racism, nationalism and religion - or simply tribalism. These flies have perverted both left and right. The Republicans were originally small government, more individualistic, low debt, separation of church and state and generally "smart" realistic views of the world. Immigration was not originally part of the thinking. Religion is now a big player in the party, the debt issue has been forgotten and things like global warming and other "smart" thinking is shunned. Immigration (racism) has become part of the party platform. Meanwhile the Democrats have not escaped stupid ideas either. The Black Lives Matter movement identified a social injustice then pushed the idea to the brink of stupidity with ideas like "defund the police". Anti-racism comes across as wanting no restrictions to immigration. National Health care comes across as anti capitalistic. The truth is that the end result is that the average person is not sure exactly what the Democrats stand for. That makes it easy for the right wing to label them negatively. Trump does this every day tweet after tweet, speech after speech which both right and left leaning media broadcast. The truth is, tell a lie often enough and it becomes accepted as true. Of course there is another word misused: "liberal". Very strange in a country like the USA which is defined as a "liberal democracy". The Constitution is liberal. The Bill of Rights is liberal. Yet listening to places like Fox one would think "liberal" is something bad. In the end I come down to this. The left right argument will go back and forth and both have good and bad points so we will probably never all agree on what is best. Personally I don't see health care as a good area for capitalism to operate and government would be a better place - not perfect by any means but still more cost effective and better over all for the most people. Europe and many other countries make that plain to see. Meanwhile the biggest problem is the widening gap between the general public - two tribes talking past each other and no longer one people as one hoped the US would become. The internet/ media is a culprit and a big part of why this is happening. But it is also the leadership who can manipulate the media either purposely or inadvertently. I dont know if Trump is actually an autocrat but what is obvious is that he has added to the problem by fanning the flames that were already there. We can deal with a small fire, but he has made it a big one and for that reason alone Trump is a danger to the very idea of the United States. His fans choose to not want to recognize this. In the end they will come to realize the danger and what it leads to. The fear is that it will be too late.
Trump, Iran, Russia and China
Saturday 19th of September 2020 10:15:19 PM
China would like to back a candidate that is bad for the US but good for China but sees neither in Biden or Trump. Instead they see Trump as bad for China AND bad for the US and Biden as good for the US and at least not bad for China so prefer Biden to Trump for that reason. Russia likes Trump because he is bad for the US and bad for China which is also why North Korea is for Trump. Iran is under no illusion that either will be good for Iran but hate Trump no matter what. The Europeans think Trump is an idiot. The Asians are of mixed feelings as they worry about China.
Good deal, Bad deal
Saturday 19th of September 2020 03:45:43 PM
There is something I dont understand Mr President. On one hand you say we were doing so well economically - best in history etc yet on the other you say all our international deals are terrible and everyone is ripping us off. How can both be true?
Saturday 12th of September 2020 06:54:43 PM
The unfortunate truth about the supposed peace between the Gulf states and Israel is that both will change their minds when they get what they want - the Gulf more US arms and Israel when the settlers pressure the government for more territory on the west bank. Peace? bullshit!
Monday 10th of August 2020 08:23:43 PM
Bernie Madoff showed that even smart people can believe stupid things, Donald Trump is the Madoff of politics today
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