If Democrats want to win in 2020, they won’t nominate a woman for president and will nominate a woman for vice president

The Democratic Party is full of smart, experienced and personable women who would do a great job as president. The list begins with Hillary Clinton, but obviously nominating her would court disaster, as the irrational “lock her up crowd” is still rather quite large. Why give Republicans another reason to come out to the polls? Hillary would perform particularly poorly against any Republican other than Trump, because none of them would have Trump’s baggage and Hillary would still have hers.

The four women I like for president are Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand. I personally think it’s about time that a woman served as president.

But nominating any of these truly competent woman or any other woman would be a mistake. About 34% of all voters, including 59% of Republicans, do not personally want to see a woman as president in their lifetime. That’s a steep demographic hill to climb. We know that any male Republican candidate, but especially Trump, will attempt to associate a female candidate with weakness. The news media is sure to exercise its double standard for female candidates: questioning them for past actions and family situations that go unspoken when the candidate is a male.

There is plenty of evidence that a backlash against the very necessary and important #Metoo movement has formed. Leading the anti-#Metoo-ist charge is Trump Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who has pushed through new college regulations regarding claims of assault that favor the accused. Of particular interest is a recent Bloomberg News report that men at Wall Street investment banks, brokerages and other financial institutions are avoiding being alone with women, rather than risk an accusation of sexual harassment. These powerful business men, virtually all of whom had a mentor at the beginning of their careers, call it the Pence Effect, after Vice President Mike Pence, who will be alone in a room or at dinner with a woman only if it’s his wife. Now Pence can blame his squeamishness on his religion, but these Masters of the Universe blame it on the potential for a misunderstanding or false accusation. The article never mentions the fact that a mere 2% of sexual harassment or assault accusations are false. That means the likelihood of dining alone with a woman resulting in a false accusation is close to nil. That is, if the man keeps the conversation during business hours to business matters, and the dinner conversation to business or non-threatening personal matters. No physical contact beyond shaking hands, when appropriate. That these men don’t realize that all it takes to avoid assault charges is not to assault suggests a terrible truth about the lack of respect that women still suffer in the business and public worlds.

Whoever the Republicans run, it’s essential for Democrats to win in 2020. Why take a chance? What if the answer to the question, “Is America ready for a woman president?” is still no?

But on the other hand, it is extremely important that America moves forward. We have to lay the groundwork for a female presidency in the near future. A woman has twice run for vice president and once for president. Running a woman as a vice presidential candidate in 2020 keeps women in the presidential campaign limelight. And let’s face it, Harris, Klobuchar, Warren and Gillibrand are all more competent and presentable candidates than Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin were. A woman vice presidential candidate will make a Democratic ticket more attractive to millennial voters.

But whereas all four women would make wonderful presidents and vice presidents, I would not consider Elizabeth Warren as someone’s running mate, because she’s already 69. In four or eight years, she’ll be in her seventies, on the verge of being too old to run for our highest office.

Interestingly enough, running one of the three younger women as vice president makes Joe Biden a more appealing choice to head the ticket. Biden will turn 78 in 2020 and, if elected, figures to serve one term only. Whoever is his vice president will be the presumptive presidential frontrunner in 2024. Making it Harris, Klobuchar, Gillibrand or another woman sets up the probability that a woman is elected president in 2024, assuming the Democrats do what they say they’re going to do.

Biden wouldn’t be my first, second, third or fourth choice among Democratic men. I still don’t like the way he mistreated Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991. Moreover, I would rather see a younger, more vigorous person in office.

But who should it be? Tune in tomorrow for the last in my series of articles on who the Democrats should nominate in 2020.

With a deep bench of talent, the Democrat’s mantra should be ABB: Anyone but Beto

The Democrats are blessed with a large number of candidates whose experience, politics and personality make them qualified to assume the office of the presidency. Even if we rule out the most well-known but all fairly ancient Democrats—the septuagenarians Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders—the Democrats’ cup runneth over with talented candidates.

Unfortunately Beto O’Rourke is not one of them.

Yet, Beto is the one that the mainstream news media want to focus on. The other day, MSNBC’s pseudo-progressive Chris Matthews pumped up O’Rourke’s candidacy. This week, The New York Times ran a front-page feature focused  focused on his potential candidacy. The only other possible candidates mentioned in the article are those the writer believes Beto particularly threatens—Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Joe Biden

What’s more, strong anecdotal evidence exists that large numbers of probable Democratic voters are intrigued by Beto. Other than Biden, Bernie and Hillary, O’Rourke attracted the most support in a recent national poll, although he won a mere 9% of participants. My Facebook universe of more than 3,500 friends, which is decidedly Democratic and progressive, generates at least two dozen updates a day about the 2020 election. About a sixth of the posts wail over the possibility of Hillary running and another sixth propose Bernie as the top choice. A handful of posts mention other candidates, while the remainder—about two-thirds—propose Beto as the top candidate.

Yet what has he done? Not much, as it turns out.

He served three undistinguished terms as a back bencher in the House of Representatives. Between forming an environmental coalition, speaking out (sometimes inaccurately) on many issues and paying her interns a decent wage, the spunky Alexandria Octavio-Cortez has already had a greater impact as a congressional representative than Beto did in six years, and she hasn’t even taken office yet. Before he ran for office, he had an undistinguished career in business.

Beto, like JFK, both Bushes, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Brown and Mitt Romney, does have the advantage of coming from a politically connected family. His mother is the stepdaughter of the Secretary of the Navy under JFK, while his father served as county commissioner and county judge and is a longtime political crony of former Texas Governor Mark White. We can assume that Beto called in decades of chits in first running for office as an unknown mediocrity.

When the news media and social media gush about O’Rourke, they focus on one fact and two feelings. First and foremost, they mention his charisma, which is, to quote Webster’s “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure.” Charisma is an amorphous feeling that has been applied to JFK, Reagan, Clinton, Obama and George W. Bush (only in comparison to his 2000 opponent, Al Gore). No one likes to use the “c” word when talking about Donald Trump, Adolph Hitler, Huey Long or Mussolini, but we know that large numbers of people were irrationally devoted to these individuals. Some individuals with charisma were decent leaders, but most were fairly mediocre like JFK or Clinton, or full scale disasters like Ronnie and Georgie. Then there are the manipulative, lying demagogues. Many Democrats seem very likable, especially Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Corey Booker. Others have the gravitas that I prefer in a leader, including Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee and Sherrod Brown. All have greater credentials and have accomplished more in their lives than Beto.

Beto-heads like the fact that O’Rourke raised so much money from so many small donors for his failed campaign to unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz. That’s the fact. We’ll never know, however, what portion of the small givers were as much anti-Cruz as they were pro-O’Rourke. A lot of people despised Cruz before they ever heard of Beto. Remember that Cruz is considered unctuous, hypocritical and untrustworthy by large numbers of people, and is even disliked by many of his allies in the Senate. No one has ever written that Ted has even a modicum of charisma, charm or even likeability.

Finally, supporters of O’Rourke believe that his great showing against Cruz in Texas demonstrates that he can beat Trump nationally in 2020. The implicit reasoning behind this feeling seems to be that the nation as a whole is more liberal than Texas. Yet Texas has a lot of minorities. Its demographic future seems to be similar to the path taken in Nevada, Virginia and Colorado, all states that are turning or have turned blue. Besides, it is Trump not Cruz who commands the so-called Republican base of evangelicals, those opposed to immigration and racists. They preferred Trump over Cruz in the 2016 primaries. If Beto couldn’t beat a despicable Cruz, why does anyone think he can handle the more formidable Trump?

Compare Beto to the last newcomer anointed as a charismatic Democratic savior who leaped ahead of more experienced Democrats, Barack Obama. First of all, Obama had far more relevant experience. He had been a prominent Senator who had made noises during his four years representing Illinois, and a Constitutional law professor before that. When we focus only on domestic affairs, Obama turned out to be a good president, but during his first few years in office he made several mistakes stemming from his lack of experience as an administrator. Can we expect the less experienced and less well-educated O’Rourke to do any better than Obama?

It’s not just that Beto is at best marginally qualified to be president. It’s that the Democratic bench is so deep and talented that it makes little sense to put the nation’s future in Beto’s hands.

In a related column tomorrow, I will consider some of these other Democrats from the standpoint of what should be the most important factor in 2020—electability.

Great victory for Dems & the American people last night no matter what mainstream media says, but we have to start preparing for 2019

Media pundits are trying to shade the election as a wash, but I see it as a major victory for Democrats, everyone who believes America is a multicultural society, and the 99.5% of us who don’t have a lot of money.

The central outcome of the 2018 midterm election is that the Democrats won back the House. The Dems will now be able to block obnoxious Republican legislation and open a series of investigations into Trump and Trump administration corruption and lawbreaking. For example, it’s a cinch that one or more House committees will now subpoena Trump’s past tax filings. The Democrats will also be able to wrestle concessions from Republicans in some no brainer areas such as criminal justice reform and repairing our frail infrastructure of mass transit, roads, bridges and sewer systems. While it’s doubtful progressives will see progress on the big issues such as healthcare and raising taxes on the wealthy, we also won’t face defunding of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

Perhaps most important, control of the House means that something is now blocking the Trump and GOP’s path towards authoritarian control by a minority party. That the Republicans picked up a couple of Senate seats does not change the balance of power the way the Dem’s House victory does. It was always a pipedream to think that the Senate could change hands with so many Democratic seats open this year. On the bright side, a lot of GOP Senators will be up for reelection in 2020, vulnerable to Trumps’ unpopularity among a large majority of voters. The Trump agenda is now effectively blocked, except when it comes to installing rightwing judges.

One reason why the results look so much more balanced than actuality is that the GOP won many of the races the mainstream media focused on: Florida Governor and Senate, Georgia Governor, Texas Senate. Many of the vilest of Republican candidates won, like Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis and Marsha Blackburn, and at this point Brian Kemp and Rick Scott, too. To the good, Scott Walker and Chris Kobach, two of the most deplorable of the deplorables, did lose. But many of the most attractive Democrats went down, mainly Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum (and maybe Stacey Abrams), all christened by the news media as rising stars. Pundits on multiple cable stations salivated at the thought of Beto running for president in 2020.

Luckily, the Democrats have plenty of attractive possible candidates who could prove formidable in 2020, including Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Gavin Newsom, Chris Murphy, Corey Booker, Martin O’Malley, Andrew Cuomo and Jay Inslee (not to mention yesterday’s news such as Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine). All, except maybe Bernie, would make competent presidents. All would tack left on healthcare, Social Security, infrastructure development, public education, social inclusiveness, a foreign policy paced on cooperation with other countries and action to address global warming. One will catch fire with Democratic voters. Let’s then hope that before too long the cable analysts stop pushing Beto. Someone who couldn’t even defeat Ted Cruz won’t have a chance against the Donald.

But before 2020 comes the very important off off year of the 2019 local elections that will do much to determine whether we continue to become an autocratic government whose sole objective is to enrich those already wealthy. If Democrats can continue to grab state legislatures, they can be in firm control to implement the results of the 2020 census. Remember that Dems lack of competiveness in 2010, the last election to determine who set the boundaries of Congressional districts, led to the current dire situation. Democratic state legislatures will also be able to end the wave of voter suppression laws that in all likelihood caused the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, and of the statewide candidates in Georgia and Florida this year. Finally, state legislatures can serve as a bulwark against an increasingly conservative federal court system.

Participation in the electoral process can never be a one-off activity, like a vacation to Machu Picchu. You have to keep voting for Democrats at every level in every election and keep participating to drive the Democratic Party further left. I urge all readers to begin now to investigate the open offices and who is running as a Democrat in their 2019 local races and communicate to everyone you know how important it is to keep coming out to vote for Democrats in 2019.

A lay sermon on voting against Trump and for Democrats on November 6

In Jewish tradition, the Tree of Life, the name of the synagogue where an anti-Semite with an AR-15 killed 11 worshipers, is the Torah. For example, the final song before closing the synagogue ark after reading from the Torah calls the Torah a “tree of life. The passage goes ”It is a tree of life onto them that lay hold of it, and happy is every one that retaineth it.” (from the 1958 Hebrew Publishing Company edition of the Synagogue Service New Year and Atonement)

The Torah—or the Five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch, as it is also known—records the mythic history of the Jewish people from the birth of the universe through the exodus from Egypt and the wandering in the desert for 40 years before entering the Holy Land. But beyond the narrative, the Tree of Life is a guide for how to live one’s life. Rabbis have identified 613 specific commandments in the five books, most of which have been subject over the centuries to repeated interpretation to bring them up to date to cover situations, technologies and times that have changed dramatically since the original writing of the Torah, about 2,600 years ago. Each time someone follows any one of the 613 commandments, he or she performs a “mitvah,” a good deed. The idea of the Torah as a book of action as much as a book of history is central to all branches of Judaism.

I don’t believe I’m wrong to propose that action in the world—be it prayer, acts of kindness or bravery of making your voice known, dominates the way Jews live in the world, be they Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist or atheist. Moses stresses the importance of acting in the world in his very last speech to the Jewish people, at the end of Deuteronomy. I’m going to give two translations, first the standard one you can find on the internet: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.

Now the slightly more formal translation in the 1962 Jewish Publication Society of America translation: “Concealed acts concern the Lord our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching.”

There’s a double message here. First that our salvation and our objectives on earth can only manifest themselves through action. It doesn’t matter what you say or what you think. You are judged on what you do. It sounds very existential to me, which may explain why so many atheists of Jewish background insist they are good Jews and that there are a number of Synagogues for atheist Jews across the country.

The second message is just as clear: Our actions should depend on the real world—the things that are revealed. This affirmation of science and the application of facts stands in stark opposition to certain other religions that expect us to ignore facts in favor of faith, which, as Emily Dickinson once pointed out, “is a fine invention when gentlemen can see, but microscopes are prudent in an emergency.”

The countdown of the 2018 midterm election has seen so many truly disturbing events that the more religious among us may have come to believe we are living in apocalyptic times. The brutal assassination of Jamal Khashoggi; the wave of pipe bombs sent to public figures whom Donald Trump has constantly demonized in speeches and tweets; the racist murder of two African-Americans outside a supermarket in Kentucky; the dreadful Tree of Life slaughter. Many others probably feel as I do—as if I’m on the ropes of a fight ring and am being hit on the jaw time and again by a heavyweight boxer. That the violent and hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump and the Trumpites running for office has engendered an atmosphere of permission for the crimes and hate speech is hard to dispute. Since the latest mass murder and hate crimes, Trump and his administration have put the pedal to the metal in advocating various forms of racism both directly and using coded language and action. In talking with Pittsburgh Jewish leaders, Trump said that he, like them, likes to negotiate, an anti-Semitic slur. Mike Pence invited a spiritual leader who is a Jew for Jesus to pretend to be a rabbi and give a speech at a memorial ceremony for the Tree of Life dead, a poke in the eye to virtually every Jew. Trump used his authoritarian streak to ratchet up the hate when he asserted that he could overrule the 14th amendment and outlaw birthright citizenship with an executive order. We wake up each morning asking ourselves, what fresh hell will come today?

While the Torah is clear that we shouldn’t wait around for a miracle of faith, but act, its writers could not have anticipated the complex challenges of a post-industrial world in which the ultra-wealthy have made a devil’s pact with racists and the authoritarian right. But I infer a very clear application of the Torah’s message: Vote, and do not vote for liars and those who dispute scientific truth.

Scientific truth, of course includes a belief in global warming and the idea that racial constructs are meaningless. It includes an understanding that immigrants—legal and illegal—raise the wages and employment of everyone and commit fewer crimes than the native born. It recognizes that single-payer universal healthcare leads to lower healthcare costs; that lowering taxes on the wealthy does not create jobs; and that the more guns in a society, the more people are killed and injured by guns. It dismisses outrageous lies like the Saudi arms deal will create a million jobs, the caravan of refugees 900 miles from the border represents a national threat, or the United States is the only country to grant birthright citizenship. It discounts all racial and cultural stereotyping. In other words, to vote for truth requires us to reject Trumpism in its whole and its parts.

For Americans of good faith, be they Jewish or non-Jewish, believers or atheists, that means one thing and one thing only: wherever you are, vote straight line Democratic. I know that no Democrat will align exactly with your positions, but 2018 is one year when must vote by party, not individual, if we are to defeat the evil of Trumpism. Hold your nose and cast your ballot for that imperfect candidate, as long as she/he is a Democrat. The future of our country depends on it.

And you’d be doing a mitzvah.

Antisemitism was root cause, but automatic weapons the method for killing 11 at Pittsburgh Synagogue. To stop mass shootings, we must ban automatic weapons!

Reactions by Jews and non-Jews to the massacre of 11 people at Tree Of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh overwhelmed my Facebook feed this morning. Many stars of David. Many portrait photos with “#TogetherAgainstAntisemitism” added. Lots of expressions of shock, anger, fear and sadness.

It was a horrible event, another bloody example that we must pass laws that outlaw automatic and semi-automatic firearms, and pass a number of other gun control and gun safety laws on the federal and state levels. Licenses for guns with mandatory renewals. Seven-day waiting period for all gun sales. A stronger national registry of those banned from owning guns. Repeal of ”stand your ground” laws. Limits on annual purchases of ammunition.

This particular slaughter of the innocents hit me, and many I knew, particularly close to home, not just because I’m Jewish, but because it occurred in my old home—the neighborhood in which I lived for many years. Tree of Life synagogue is located three blocks from our former house in Squirrel Hill. I knew many people that went to Tree of Life. The list of victims includes two people I knew well. One coached one of my son’s Little League teams and the other served as a long-time Treasurer for another Pittsburgh Synagogue which I attended for a while.

In our grief, whether personal or empathetic, we must remember one thing: These 11 Jewish lives are worth no more—and no less—than the lives lost at Parkland, Newtown, the Charleston AME Church, San Bernardino, Las Vegas and the Orlando night club. Going beyond mass murders, usually committed with automatic rifles, the 11 Jewish lives exterminated by the gunfire of an anti-Semite are worth no more—and no less—than the lives of the innocents killed in Yemen, Syria and the Israeli-occupied territories. Only hypocrites can mourn the loss of Jewish lives and not also be moved to tears by the deaths of Palestinian protesters and the starvation of Yemeni children. We can widen the circle of victims of human stupidity, greed and cruelty to include the refugees from war, famine, gangs and government suppression now routinely turned away or forced into captivity in the United States and Western Europe.

Humans are creating a lot of innocent victims in the 21st century, a sad carryover from the gory 20th century, which featured world wars, mass starvations, enormous post-war migrations and the development and use against innocent bystanders of nuclear weapons. What unites the two centuries is not only violence, but the singular cause for most of it: racism—fear and disdain for people of another color or ethnicity. It is clear, however, that Donald Trump has made a bad situation worse. FBI statistics show that hate crimes overall increased precipitously the day Trumpty-Dumpty took office and have stayed high ever since. Some have postulated that his many comments alluding to violence against his opponents have emboldened violent action both by rightists in the United States and by autocratic governments elsewhere. Moreover, Trump and his administration’s hostility towards immigrants makes the Donald the leader of a new world order of nativist political movements in Great Britain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Brazil and elsewhere.

A new analysis of the global terrorism database shows that the extreme right committed two-thirds of terrorist acts on American soil last year. Under Trump, the American right has felt an expansive sense of empowerment in the United States that has too often manifested itself in violence. The right has so many targets: Blacks, Muslims, Jews, gays, immigrants, Latinos, the transgendered, abortion providers. In many ways, the melting pot has turned into a shooting gallery.

We should learn two lessons from this week of horrors that began with the fallout of the butchering of an American resident by the Saudis and was dominated by the delivery of pipe bombs to a dozen or more people Trump routinely lambasts with violent language: On the spiritual level, we should learn to care about and act against the misery of all people, be they your next-door neighbor, your religious brethren or victims of war halfway around the world.

On the practical level, we’ve learned profoundly that it’s a lot easier to buy an automatic weapon than to construct a bunch of sophisticated bombs from scratch. If we want to stop this particular kind of misery—mass murders perpetrated by nuts of all political and religious persuasion—we have to ban automatic and semiautomatic rifles and place much greater restrictions on owning, carrying and using other types of firearms.

Our Middle Eastern policy favors Saudi Arabia over Iran and that makes absolutely no sense

The reaction of Donald Trump and other administration officials to the butchering of U.S. resident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabian security staff illuminates the larger absurdity of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Whether it’s not believing it happened, accepting the Saudis’ several sanitized versions of the brutal assassination, or minimizing the transgression and soft pedaling the reaction to this barbarism, Trump, his factotums and right-wing pundits give two reasons for putting their faith in the Saudi version: the money Saudis pay U.S. companies for arms and the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia in U.S. foreign policy. In the age of fracking, few talk about Saudi oil.

Putting money above morality and a free press merely demonstrates—for what seems like the five hundredth time this year—the amoral corruption of Trumpism. Democrats, mainstream journalists and many government officials across the globe rightly see the depths of depravity in going easy on the Saudis. Perceptive commentators have noted that Trump’s frequent violent language against reporters may have made the Saudis believe that they had “permission” to use torture and murder to silence one of the regime’s strongest critics while issuing a de facto warning to other journalists questioning Saudi actions in Yemen and elsewhere. Strangely, no one has yet compared the dismemberment of Khashoggi—likely initiated while he was still alive—to the ISIS beheadings of a few years back.

But I’ve yet to see any U.S. politician or pundit push back on the assertion that Saudi Arabia holds a strategic importance in U.S. policy. That strategic importance is tied to constraining Iran, the Saudis fierce rival in the region for the hearts and minds of Moslems. Thus what most people, including Democrats, really mean by “strategic importance of Saudi Arabia” is “we’re choosing Saudi Arabia over Iran.” And what a crazy decision that is in so many ways.

Let’s start with past harm to the United States. An ally of the Unites States before the 1979 revolution, Iranian students took 52 Americans hostage a few days after that revolution started. Iran held the 52 Americans for 444 days. Although the hostages were beaten and lived in fear, every single one of them came back alive. Since then, there has been no documented case of any American dying at the hands of the Iranian military or police. It is true that Iran has supported political groups engaged in violence against America and its allies, but giving groups money and arms is far different from pulling the actual trigger. If it wasn’t, we couldn’t justify our support and military sales to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and other countries which have committed atrocities.

Compare the harm inflicted on the United States by Saudi Arabia. It is common knowledge that virtually all of the 9/11 hijackers who killed almost 3,000 Americans were Saudis who received monetary support from other Saudis. Less well-know are the many direct and indirect ties between the 9/11 perpetrators and financers and Saudi government officials.  can now add Jamal Khashoggi to the toll of dead American residents attributable to Saudi Arabia.

Now let’s consider the assets of our friend the Saudis compared with our enemy the Iranians. Saudi Arabia is a desert country of 33 million with lots of oil and no other natural resources. It has no history of democracy and its educational system does not produce graduates with marketable skills. Besides oil, Iran has a wealth of natural resources, an historically strong, Western-looking middle class, and a well-educated population of 81.5 million. Iran held elections with real meaning for decades until a U.S.-supported coup d’état helped to install Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as dictator in 1953; today there are semi-free elections in Iran. Saudi Arabia occasionally has local elections to offices without any power.

While neither country offers the freedoms we are used to in the West, Iran is definitely a more open society than Saudi Arabia. The cultural history of Saudi Arabia—dominated by nomadic tribes and Islam—has little in common with the West, whereas Iran is Persia, whose civilization is one of the foundational precursors of European thought and culture. Persian/Iranian history is rich in important non-religious thinkers and writers. Other than Mohammed the Prophet and his first prominent followers, who has the Arabian Peninsula produced? Look at the Wikipedia articles titled “List of Saudi Arabian Writers” and “List of Persian Writers.” The Arabian list has 37 names; the Persian has 188, including some I recognized as literary masters: Ferdowski, Omar Kayyám, Saadi, Hafez, Leila Kasra, Muhammad Iqbal.

As usual, our foreign policy has no basis in history. Our saber-rattling for years only goaded Iran to invest more in its military and to developing nuclear weapons. Economic sanctions, however, brought Iran to the table and led to the Iran Nuclear Treaty, which the Trump Administration has unfortunately shredded. Theocrats may often have the last word in Iran, but the middle class and business classes put enormous pressure on the elected government and the religious leaders to provide a growing economy. (The Saudis, of course, don’t face that demand since the sheer wealth of the Saudi Princes enables them to put more than half the population on welfare.) So why the heck do we need to arm anybody to counter Iran, when economic threats have worked just fine? Sure, the military arms industry will suffer, but that shouldn’t matter to any government that feels a responsibility to its people and the world. A foreign policy based on bellicosity often leads to war.

But don’t expect the horrific killing of Jamal Khashoggi to change basic U.S. policy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Prince Muhammad bin Salman, AKA MBS (as in “more BS”) step down as head of government, maybe returning in five or 10 years, maybe forever exiled from political leadership for committing the sin of not covering up his bloody tracks. But the U.S. will continue to consider the Saudis as allies and Iran as a mortal enemy, at least as long as the industrial military complex dominates our political process.

Bad idea of the year, consumer division: Banks now trying to get children hooked on debit cards by enabling parents to use them for giving allowance

If there’s an award for bad idea of the year, non-politics division, the early frontrunner must certainly be giving children their allowance on debit cards. Pushed by banks and app developers, the debit card spares parents the annoying task of getting cash to give the kids for their weekly or monthly allotment or as payment for chores. It also allows them to see all the purchases the kid makes and restrict purchases from certain stores. Many of these new cards attached to apps also give parents the option of designating some of their payments to savings accounts. The past few weeks have seen a very small but persistent media campaign about the paperless allowance, including an article in the New York Times’ “Your Money Advisor” column.

According to the Times’ sympathetic article, financial advocates say that the main benefit of the cards “is that they can prompt parents to talk with their children about money.” Prompt, by the way, means reminds. So even the so-called advocates admit the cards fulfill no real function, since any online calendar or the bugging of the kids for their cash can serve to prompt the parent. Of course, we can’t forget the convenience of not having to stop at the ATM or bank to make sure you have the bucks to pay the little dears. Just load up the cards.

These so-called financial advocates must represent the banks and app companies, because they certainly don’t represent families.

Forget about the fees, which give parents and children less buying power. The prepaid cards deny children the opportunity to learn firsthand what money is and what it can do: With a card, the child is unable to see money accumulate or understand what it means to exchange money for a product or service. With a card, the child doesn’t get the experience—and pleasure—of going to the bank to deposit or withdraw money and seeing principle grow in the passbook or knowing when you see the new deposit appear online the number and denomination of dollars and change it represents. The card thus denies the child the opportunity to use money to learn basic math and financial skills.

Because the child knows or will find out that the parent can use the card to monitor and veto purchases, the child loses the sense of ownership over the money. When the parent designates some of the allowance to savings, it’s not the child saving, it’s the parent. The child is the active saver only when she-he sees the money and makes the decision to put some away. Part of learning how to handle money is to make mistakes with the small amounts children get for their allowance. Parental supervision of how every penny of an allowance is spent is an ultimate form of helicopter parenting, keeping children intellectual slaves to their parents long after they should be stretching out and starting to take responsibility for themselves.

One app company makes cards for children as young as six. Imagine a six-year-old who never gets to convert ones to fives or to count out fifty pennies and stuff them in a paper roll. Moreover, think of the kind of consumer this child will grow into. A consumer who has primarily used debit cards. One who is used to paying fees, and in fact probably grows up not even knowing that his use of the card comes with fees. A consumer whose concept of money is completely abstract. One whose math skills may not translate into a practical understanding of what buying power is and means. In other words, a consumer trained to be a financial rube. Perfect for banks and retailers.

Frankly, I don’t see any use for a debit card, because federal laws free banks to pile on fees. No-fee credit cards I like, but only if you do what I have done since I got my first credit card 48 years ago—pay off the entire balance at the end of every month to avoid incurring any interest or fees. But use of both credit and debit cards should wait until a child has basic math skills and has demonstrated financial responsibility. Most college kids are forced to use credit cards to make purchases at their universities. That’s soon enough to be introduced to this very complicated and fee-ridden way of keeping track of your money.

Time to do more than just protest immigration policies. Comment on a bad new regulation Trump wants to inflict on immigrants

The latest Trump scheme to suppress immigration is to give immigrants a Sophie’s choice—two equally onerous options: either forgo all government benefits or forgo the option of becoming a citizen.

Immigrants must meet many qualifications before they can obtain permanent residency and citizenship. Part of the process is the requirement to undergo what is called the “public charge assessment,” which evaluates, on a case-by-case basis, whether an individual applying for permanent residence is likely to become dependent on the government for public assistance. If an applicant is categorized as a potential “public charge,” immigration services can reject their green card application. The “public charge assessment” has been part of federal immigration law for decades, but up to now has always been narrowly defined. The proposed rule, however, would make the assessment consider many more federal programs than in the past, including, for the first time, health and nutrition programs.

Critics rightly point out that this proposed new regulation will discourage poor people, including virtually all refugees, from crossing the border, and encourage many to return to their country of origin. Critics assume that the regulation won’t affect the wealthy, who don’t need benefits. But that ends up being a miniscule number of immigrants, as most people in all countries are poor or middle class. Much of the middle class in the United States has to take government benefits like subsidized healthcare, disaster relief or unemployment compensation from time to time, so we can imagine that many if not most immigrants will fear having the same experience and therefore face the dilemma of deciding between the security of citizenship or the pressing needs of food, shelter, healthcare, education and disaster relief.

The new regulation will thus negatively affect virtually all immigrants from all countries. To view it as another example of the rich getting special treatment while the poor suffer is to miss the broader problem: that it will lead to far fewer immigrants, which will be disastrous to the American economy. We are already facing labor shortages, which are expected to grow as more baby boomers retire. Caregiving, agricultural, hospitality and construction are just a few of the industries already crying out for new employees.

A heap of current research proves that immigrants—legal and illegal—increase the rate of employment of native-born Americans and also increase the average wages of the native-born. Immigrants also pose less of a crime threat than native-born Americans, since both legal and illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes overall and fewer violent crimes.

In other words, if we stem the flow of immigrants, as the Trump administration intends to do, we shrink the economy and the average wage while increasing the crime rate.

There is still something we can do to prevent this awful new regulation from taking effect. We are in the middle of the comment period on the regulation, a time when anyone—corporations, think tanks and individuals—can publicly comment. By law, the administration must take those comments into account when creating the final rules.

The easiest way to comment is to follow the instructions on a special web page set up by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), the lobbying arm of the Quakers. Now FCNL is framing the issue primarily as one of rich and poor, and they are absolutely right that the rich will end up having a much easier time to citizenship under this nasty reg. But don’t let that cloud the main point. This regulation will lead to far fewer immigrants at all economic levels, from all countries, which goes against the best interests of every American.

You can also go to a special web page that the pro-immigration nonprofit organization, the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign, for an easy way to make your comment on the regulation.

The deadline to make comments is October 21, so don’t tarry. Link to FCNL or Protecting Immigrant Families today, follow the instructions, and tell the Trump administration you oppose the reg.

Research shows carbon markets don’t reduce pollution as much as regulation, yet world governments insist of carbon trading to address global warming

The Spring 2018 issue of Jewish Currents had my latest “Left is right” article that uses the latest research to show that the left position on environmental issues is the correct one: that the government has a role in addressing climate change and that the best way to do so is with regulation and not market solutions.

There are no current plans to post the article on the Jewish Currents website, so I thought I would give you a taste of it in hopes that you will buy the issue to read the whole piece, and maybe even start a subscription. Jewish Currents is a leading left-wing journal of politics and the arts.

Here’s the excerpt:

Instead of regulation, conservatives and even some liberals have proposed letting the market fix what the market broke. Their solution is government-administered markets in which an agency gives or sells a set number of permits (or credits) to emit specific quantities of a pollutant over a specific period of time, requiring polluters to hold permits equal to their emissions. Polluters that want to increase their emissions must buy permits from others willing to sell. In this fantasy, polluters who can reduce emissions most cheaply will sell their permits to heavy polluters, achieving the emission reduction at the lowest cost to society. This solution—called “cap and trade”—is embraced by most governments of the world today and many Democrats, including former president Barack Obama.

Tamra Gilbertson and Oscar Reyes, both of the Carbon Trade Watch/Transnational Institute, demonstrate in Carbon Trading: How It Works and Why It Fails that carbon trading markets are ”a multi-billion dollar scheme whose basic premise is that polluters can pay someone else to clean up their mess so they don’t have to.” For one thing, Gilbertson and Reyes argue, the process of setting emission levels is easily tainted by lobbying and politics, resulting in too many permits issued, and major polluters granted additional revenue streams. Moreover, carbon markets do nothing to speed the transition to solar, wind and other alternatives, but merely manage the use of fossil fuels.

As an article of faith, however, right-wingers believe that simple regulation, be it setting efficiency standards for appliances or assessing fines on companies emitting too much greenhouse gas, stifles the freedom to innovate that they fantasize produces more efficient and higher quality solutions. The reality is that companies will “innovate” to meet a regulation just as readily as they innovate to adapt to any market change. The claim that market-based solutions like emissions trading are “less bureaucratic, less centralized, less coercive, and more supportive of innovation than other forms of regulation does not stand up to scrutiny,” write Gilbertson and Reyes.

Recent history serves as some guide here. Starting in the 1990s, both the U.S. and the European Union decided to combat acid rain by reducing the levels of sulfur dioxide in the air. As stipulated by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the U.S. established a sulfur dioxide trading scheme, while the European Union instituted a series of strict regulations. Using the cap-and-trade strategy, the U.S. obtained mediocre results, reducing sulfur dioxide emissions by 43.1 percent by the end of 2007. Over the same time span, EU countries reduced emissions by a robust 71%.

Yet nations persist in creating carbon markets. For example, China recently announced it was forming a giant national market to trade credits for the right to emit greenhouse gases; the New York Times noted that the trading plan “is not a sure bet to succeed.”

The conceptual problem with cap-and-trade is that it is a market mechanism meant to fix an inherent flaw in the market: The health and environmental costs of fossil fuel extraction and use are not assessed to the companies involved, but are spread to society. This flaw in the overall market repeats itself in the carbon-trading market because it is inherent in all markets not to consider hidden costs to third parties. Further, the reduction of pollution to the lowest common denominator of money conceals the absolute value of an unpolluted environment not threatened by excessive warming. When we reduce all values and inputs to money, it is easy to neglect the overall objectives of society — e.g., the protection of people, the ending of hunger, the maintenance of a clean, safe, biologically diverse environment. These values are better expressed and pursued through regulations and mandates established by a democratic government than by the “logic” of the marketplace.

When Conservatives say regulation kills jobs, they are ignoring a pile of research that says otherwise

The Spring 2018 issue of Jewish Currents had my latest “Left is right” article that uses the latest research to show that the left position on environmental issues is the correct one: that the government has a role in addressing climate change and that the best way to do so is with regulation and not market solutions.

There are no current plans to post the article on the Jewish Currents website so I thought I would give you a taste of it in hopes that you will buy the issue to read the whole piece, and maybe even start a subscription. Jewish Currents is a leading left-wing journal of politics and the arts.

Here’s the excerpt:

It is too early to say with 100% ironclad confidence that government intervention can work to address the damage of climate change. But once we accept the premise that it does — as do virtually all governmental and economic experts around the globe except conservatives in the United States —  it is easy to demonstrate that government solution such as regulations and mandates can effectively address a changing climate, while market-based solutions are bound to fail.

The case against government regulation to control and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases or promote the development and use of alternative energy is built on the myth that every additional government regulation leads to a reduction in jobs and hurts the economy. An overwhelming amount of evidence shows that regulation has little, if any, impact on the number of jobs in the economy in either direction. The best start for reviewing the research on the impact of regulation is Does Regulation Kill Jobs, a collection of 14 articles by a total of 23 leading economic and governmental researchers. In the introductory chapter, the editors conclude that the number of jobs lost through enhanced regulation virtually always will equal the number of jobs gained because of the regulation. They also compare the impact of regulation on jobs in cleaner, less regulated parts of the country with that in dirtier, more regulated areas; these studies indicate relatively few job losses without even taking intoaccount job creation that the regulation produces elsewhere..

As Wayne Gray (Clark University) and Ronald J. Shadbegian (Georgetown University, now at the Environmental Protection Administration) detail in another chapter, the overall effect of pollution abatement on employment is very small: a 10 percent increase in overall abatement costs typically leads to a loss of roughly thirty jobs in industries averaging 40,000 employees. Moreover, they report, the cost to buy, install and maintain pollution-abatement equipment is quite small, measuring about 0.4 percent of all manufacturing shipments (which is far from the entire economy). Coglianese and Carrigan conclude: “The empirical evidence actually provides little reason to expect that U.S. economic woes can be solved by reforming the regulatory process.”

Having failed to prove that regulations remove jobs from the economy — and in fact fully demonstrating that the number of jobs gained through regulation equals the number lost —many economists are now busy trying to quantify the loss in lifetime earnings, self-esteem and other factors that negatively affect those who do lose their jobs.

There can be no doubt that those who lose their jobs because a dirty plant closes down or a toxic material is no longer permitted will suffer, and that there are political costs to that suffering (see: Wisconsin’s, Pennsylvania’s, and Ohio’s swing for Trump in the 2016 election). For every worker who suffers, however, another gains a job in inspection, compliance, or the development and manufacturing of non-polluting technologies. It comes out about even, unless the new jobs pay less, or the newly unemployed receive a lower level of unemployment compensation and other government aid. That’s not a problem with regulation, but reflects critical flaw in America’s advanced free-market economy: a low minimum wage, great inequality in income and wealth, a diminished labor union movement, and the decades-long shredding of the social safety net.

These analyses of jobs lost and gained exclude many substantial benefits of governmental action to address climate change. For that, we can turn to the White House Office of Management and Budget reports to Congress on the benefits and costs of federal regulations.

The agency’s 2016 report, for example, provides a stunning justification for environmental regulation: In the previous ten-year period, thirty-seven EPA regulations produced between $176 billion and $678 billion of benefits (in 2014 dollars) while costing between $43billion and $51billion. That means for every dollar spent on conforming to EPA regulations, the country benefited anywhere from $3.45 to $15.70. Conservatives are ignoring the evidence when they repeat time and time again that environmental regulation hurts the economy and reduces jobs.