Sunday, April 3, 2016

Bernie Sanders is "middle of the road"

To anyone familiar with Germany and it's politics, Bernie Sanders is a middle of the road politician, not radical at all. Pretty much everything he advocates and fights for is already reality in Germany - with good results and citizens are happy and striving with it.
1. Campaign financing: The federal government in Germany allots funds for campaigns, each party receives a percentage of the available funds equal to votes recieved in the last election. A party that won 40% of the vote, receives 40 % of the funds.
This did make it impossible to buy votes, as the "Citizen's United" rule does. I recommend reading "Dark Money" by Jane Meyer about the history of the Koch family, their rise due to the large profits of petroluem refining and their political leanings and support for libertarian ideas and politics. Only then can you begin to understand how some politicians such as Ted Cruz ("Crusted") is able to state that "regulation cost money" and that he wants to abolish or at least limit the EPA 9plus a number of other outrageous and ridiculous ideas - he is much more dangerous than Trump, because he is calculated and sneaky)
Federal allotment of funds - problem solved
2. Progressive taxes: already a reality in Germany, nobody is suffering, no entrepreneurship is thwarted etc etc. The maximum tax is around 65%. 
Think about it, when you earn 10 million a year, you still get ot keep 3.5 million. You are not poor, you can live happily. And that is what counts. I believe that charity should not be left to individuals, because then it becomes random, spotty, unpredictable, insted of wise and just, as in the case of government directed charity.
Progressive taxes mean that if you earn a lot you should pay more precentage wise, because your survival and your luxury of living increases only marginally after you arrive at the top of the food chain. and with progressive taxes, many more of your fellow humans get to benefit.
This speaks to a fundamental issue: Do you really feel alone, an independent individual or do you feel as a part of a community, as part of a group where your benefit and luck might contribute to the benefit of all? I beleive that this is a fundamental difference in the philosophies underlying the republican and democratic parties.
3. Free colleges and universities: Standard in Germany as well as in most industrialized countries and especially in Europe. The more people learn and study, the better off the country - you knew that, didnt you? Yes, this is paid by taxes, but the higher taxes are worth it.
4. Healthcare for all. Instituted by law in 1884 in Germany, has worked beautifully sicne then. Yes, Germany has problems with being short on funds to be healthcare, just the same as the US. That is because the root cause of the unstoppable rise of cost of healthcare is NOT the system by which healthcare is provided, it is the rise science and technology, ever newer, better and more complicated and more expensive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and developed and introduced. It is also due to the lack of emphasis on prevention, the lack of emphasis of a healthy diet (big agrobusiness fights vigorously against healthy food) and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, also thanks to advancing science and technology. Medicare for all is definitely not my favorite ( sicne I am a physician it will make things more complicated, dramatically jack up regulations and lower income, discouraging hard work), but in the end it might be an advantage for everybody.

And, the main point of Sanders campaign: income inequality! Yes, he is correct, and this needs to be said as looudly as possible. The billionaires have rigged the economy against the remaining 99% and it is about time we changed that. That is the true source for the pervasive disappointment, disillusionment and anger that both Trump and Sanders benefit from.
That has to change - and the best way is what Sanders proposes: Progressive taxes and fees on Wall street trading.

Yet, a word of wisdom - Germany, with all this in place, is still not paradise. The world will not turn into the best of all possible worlds, there will always be some degree of corruption and a good amount of discontent, but it will be a friendlier, more benign world, a nicer world, a world you will like and will like to live in, a world that is not as scary, that does not hreaten you with bankruptcy or homelessness at every turn. a world worth voting for.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Open to Cuba! Remember Germany and the collapse of the iron curtain

What the German experience could mean for the American-Cuban relationship

President Reagan's public appeal ito Gorbatsov while at the wall in Berlin to "tear down that wall" - probably has not done much. What truly changed the mood in East Germany was the increasing knowledge about everyday life in Western Europe. Easterners became aware of the higher standard of living, they realized that pretty much everybody in Western Germany had a car that looked nice and ran fast (unlike the East German Trabbi), a video recorder (a hot item back then) and a few more staples of life that were highly desired in the East, yet not available for purchase - not even for Western cash.
Easterners simply wanted some basic freedoms, such as the freedom to travel, to visit relatives in the West, and just to even visit the West to see what it looked like.
So knowledge about life in the non-communistic West with its material benefits and freedoms got through to the Easterners, spread created unrest. It led the the simple question: we do we not live as well and why do we not haver the same freedoms? And this questions created unrest ultimately leading to public protests for opening the walland having freedom to travel. And after a while, the military and police commanders in Berlin simply did not dare anymore to violently disperse the protesters - and the political leaders had to open the wall. And just like that it was over for the East.

How does this transfer to the Cuba situation? That the best things for the people of Cuba, for freedom and democracy will be a million American tourists simply visiting Cuba. Every single one will carry a smartphone, an iPad or some similar device. On that device they will have hundreds of photos and the Cubans will discover that the "Capitalist Imperialism" does not enslave people, that people in the US are not suppressed, suffering, miserable or on the other hand ill meaning, communist haters, but simply - very simply - human beings. Human beings with the same desires, wishes dreams and daily troubles as the Cubans. And it will dawn on them that the difference is just the political and economical system. And then they will want to change it.

So, the best path to freedom in Cuba is simply to open relationships and to travel to Cuba, to visit, to talk, to enjoy life there, eat out, hang out on the beach and on the Havana promenade. Human nature will do the rest.
No political changes needed. No big treaties, no negotiations, no this or that.....The worst thing for the people in Cuba would be to keep up the insulation. Insulation protects the present government. It does not hurt the members of the government, the communist elite is always privileged, they have always had what they needed and wanted. The common people feel it the most.

So, enjoy the opening, travel to Cuba and talk to Cubans.

The German history supports it.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Trump speech in Chicago cancelled

Yes, Trump stimulated rough behavior during his speeches, and yes, protests are fine.

But calling for boycott of a candidate's rally and publicly calling for a boycott and encouraging thousands of people to disrupt a candidates event is wrong. It is not demoractic, it is influence by mob - pretty much what these organizations supposedly are oh so opposed to. Politics by mob is plain and simply wrong, no matter how much you dislike the message of a candidate.

What would those protesters say if Trump or Cruz or Rubio supports showed up at Bernie Sanders rallies chanting and screaming and calling him a communist and whatever else you may come up with?

And, Bernie Sanders should at least tell his supporters to stop mobbing events of other candidates, and I am saying this because quite a few protesters cheered "feel the bern". That is wrong, very simply wrong. You do not try to muzzle another candidate by mobbing. Bernie correctly pointed out that Trump is in part responsible for the violent disruption, but I am really msising his clear call to his followers to stop this nonsense. Protest all you want, but peacefully and outside.

the presidential race

One of the most important issues for me: national debt.
Presently around 18 trillion, yes 18 million Dollars times a million!
It has increased dramatically under republican president GW Bush and dramatically under present democratic president Obama.
Why? I suspect that politicians get elected and stay in power if they promise and give things to people. Nobody gets elected for telling voters to be more frugal, spend less, save more and pay more taxes.
Elected officials seem addicted to spending more money than they have, more money than the government takes in. It should be standard not to spend more than what they have and also to pay back what the federal government owes. Because you have to pay interest, and for the US that has risen to hudnreds of billions of dollars every year - yes, more money you can imagine, just for interest. Paying large amounts of interest means having less money to do what you want. Simple. Would you personally like to be settled with credit card debt that is 4-5 times your annual budget? How would you feel? Would you just keep borrowing with the attitude "well, we'll live it up today and my children can put up with what I cannot handle?" Is that responsible? Is that good economical behavior? Is that ethical?
And why does not a single candidate address this issue seriously? Have you seen clear promises for balanced budgets and plan for debt repayment?

In my personal opinion the best place to start to save would be the military. Over 1 trillion dollars a year. Is that truly all necessary? Do we need it to defend our shores? Is Isis about to send their Navy over? Hardly. I am no expert, but I am sure the military could do with less bang and more diplomacy. Starting with letting the wealthy gulf states handle their own mess, instead of relying on us - while charging us for the gas to do it. And we do not need to be the policeman for the whole world, especially not if the outcomes are usually not that great - the typical scenario being: The US moves in, a drawn out battle with some success follows, and consequently country destabilizes and things get a lot worse - so the US has to stay longer, see more Americans die, spend more money, in the range of billions every month - only to ultimately be blamed and hated even more by the locals. Really? Do we deserve that?

Do we truly need the most powerful military in the world? With a budget larger than then next 10 nations? Follow the money - who benefits? The military complex, exclusively. Everybody else loses.

But our national debt is so enormous that even if we dismanteled the military completely, it would take us over 10 years to pay back our debt. Hard to imagine, but true.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why I don't trust Hillary

I appreciate independent and now democratic candidate Bernie Sanders for telling the truth - the truth about how the economy, our economical and financial system is rigged against the lower and middle class. Most of us have the experience that our economical situation is not getting better over time, but worse - or that it stagnates. My income certainly has not improved over the last 10 years, and in the meantime housing costs have gone up 20-40%, healthcare costs about the same, food has gone up etc. Sanders describes on his website how massive the wealth transfer from the middle class to the upper 1% has been over the last few decades. It is shocking.
And why do we not drive electrial cars already, why is solar energy not common place, why do we engage in wars, while being silent or inactive on climate change - when it is about as certain as it can be that climate change is the most dramatic challenge to our way of life.
Why do we still engage in wars far away from the American mainland - at billions every year? Why is everything we buy now "made in China" and not in the US anymore? and on and on.
Because ........all this benefits the few billionaires at the top of the food chain. Because the Walton family makes much more money if they manufacture in China, that's why - just one example.
And more and more people are feeling the pain, the economical pain. And economy is the most important factor. With a great economy we can forgive a few other things, but we definitely want a great economy.
...and now to the point: Hillary has received about $ 700,000 for three talks to Wall Street companies. But of course, this is not going to influence Hillary, right? Oh no, she says, Obama has received a lot of donations from Wall Street firms, and then enacted some of the strongest restrictions...Really? How come the size of the 4 or 5 largest banks has gone up, their income has gone up? Business has not changed...
Isn't it funny, that physicians are not supposed to accept anything, anything at all, from pharmaceutical representatives! Nothing, nothing...because, studies have shown, that despite physician claims to the contrary - gifts from the pharmaceutical companies DOES influence!
SHould we not treat politicians just the same? Should lobbyists not finally be banned from Congress?
And, back to Hillary - obviously we all would love to find out what Hillary told the Wall Street managers in those talks - it would be very enlightening to find out what kind of information is worth 200K for 2-3 hours....Bernie had a very good comment: "at 200,000 a talk these talks must have been so great, so good - why do you not share them with the American people?
Yes, why not, Hillary?
She has been asked repeatedly by Bernie Sanders to make the content of these talks public - to no avail. Recently, during a townhall meeting, she was asked by the moderator if she would publish the content of those talks.
And here is her fascinating answer: "Well, if everybody else makes their talks at Wall Street public, then I will do it too, but I do not see why a different standard should apply to me"
This is rhethorical jiu-jitsu! Nobody has been trying to set a standard, nobody has asked everybody else to make their talks public, maybe similar to their tax returns. The clever and sneaky introduction of "standard" is the trick here.
This question is only and EXCLUSIVELY directed at Hillary, and maybe at Sanders, who of course does not give talks on Wall Street (well, except maybe with a bullhorn down on the street in front of some financial headquarter building, and he is certainly not getting paid for that...).
The question is directed at Hillary alone and the true question is: What relationship do you REALLY have to Wall Street, what do you tell them behind closed doors, and why do they pay you so much for it? It is not about standards, but about the credibility of a presidential candidate who proclaims toughness, but most likely will turn out to be in the pocket of Wall Street just like every other politician.
Ever wonder why nothing changes?
So, next time you see  Hillary and get a chance to ask her a question, ask her to release the content of those talks - and no excuses please
Hillary is the establishment candidate, Hillary will make sure business as usual continues, and with that corruption as usual continues. The rich will continue to get richer and everybody else with continue to get poorer.
Yet, Bernie Sanders might not have succeeded this time, but another Bernie will in 4 years, or of not, then in 8 years!

Monday, December 17, 2012

My daughter is 16, what car should I get her?

Here are my recommendations for your daughter:

if you want her to be invisible - Toyota Corolla

if she has Asian looks or a lot of Asian friends - 3 series BMW, only 3 series BMW, only and

exclusively BMW 3 series

if she hangs out with the hispanic crowd - Honda Civic

if she has come out as a lesbian and vacations in Provincetown, MA - Subaru Outback

if she is scared of driving, will likely never drive faster than 25 mph and her serum testosterone is below detectable levels - Honda CRV

if you live on the periphery of town and she helps out around the house - Ford F150

if you want her to look sophisticated and sportive - Audi A4

if you want her to look as bland and boring as possible - Toyota Camry

if she hangs out with those stuck-up, spoiled kids from the leafy suburb - Lexus IS 250

if she is an aspiring supermodel - Mini Cooper

if she plans to go to design school - VW Beetle with flower on dashboard

if she is crunchy, concerned about the environment, wears Birkenstocks - Prius

if you truly love her, want her to be safe, and also want her to have great driving experience - Mercedes C class

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Japanese honor?

Remember those old movies about the Japanese? Honor..... one of their highest values, an essential, basic, profound value. Without honor, they seemed to be unable to go on, without honor, they apparently could not live anymore. Honor lost, meant life lost, sometimes literally. Ahhh, the movies. How sweet..... and how wrong.
Modern day Japanese honor is different. Copying, interpreting, plagiarism - which to me is incredibly close to stealing - is compatible with honor. Reminds me of the honor of the mafiosi. Honor is strictly limited to whatever benefits the family, when it comes to others, to anybody outside the family blackmailing, killing and pretty much everything else is just fine.

Copying, interpreting (or however you want to call it) is OK in Japan, it is now an art form....plagiarism of car designs is good, plagiarism of brand image is good, imitating car types is fine....Every Lexus rolling on our streets is proof that all this is part of the new Japanese honor. A Lexus has to look like a Mercedes or BMW in dim light, or it is not a Lexus....The pick up truck, an original American concept, never needed nor seen in Japan before, now proudly a Japanese product, oh, the Tundra. When are we finally going to see an ad where the Tundra sits on the copier and out comes the copy, the F150?
Strangely enough, other car companies survive and thrive without plagiarism. Ford never steals designs, their cars may not look particularly well (except for pickup trucks and SUVs), but at least their designs are original. They can walk proud. That one Ford 500, later renamed into Taurus, that looked like slightly enlarged VW Passat, yes, we can forgive that and call it a "hommage" to the now classic Passat. Audi never copies, Audi IS COPIED. Audi has emerged in the last decade as one of the most innovative car companies when it comes to design, starting with the TT. The front of many cars, even American cars, owe their design to Audi. And Audi now sets the standard in light design. Volkswagen does not copy, VW made design history with the Passat. Chevy deos not copy, Chrysler does not copy, Subaru, Infiniti, Mazda do not copy (Yes, they are Japanese, I know), BMW does not copy, BMW blazes the way in design.
Turns out that Germany is quite the design power in automobiles. We used to think that Germans were just great engineers, but no, they are great designers as well. Leading the world, actually.

On the other side, Honda copied the 3 series BMW when they created their successful Accord many years ago. When BMW came out with the X6 -what a coincidence - Honda came out with the Crosstour. Acura routinely copied Audi until recently, Nissan's successful Altima and Maxima are based on the design of the VW Passat.

But Lexus, Lexus is in a whole different category. Lexus "copied" automobile design, "brand feeling" and automobile technology purposely, it was a basic, founding principle of the company. They went far beyond what anybody else thought moral.

I recently traveled to Rome, Italy and Freiburg, Germany. Hardly a Lexus on those roads there. I might have seen a single Lexus in the metropolis of Rome, but every politician and wealthy person and powerful appearing Italian had either a) a black Mercedes or b) a black Audi or c) a black Maserati Quattroporte. Those where the cars parked in front of government buildings and the cars that pushed their way through rushhour traffic with Polic escorts. Italians are the foremost experts in taste and beauty. They are very well aware of quality, and they know to distinguish between true class and beauty and imitations. So, no Lexus on their roads...
Germans on the other hand, grew up with the original, with the perfection that Lexus publicly claims to be pusrsuing, with.... Mercedes. And they reject copies and imitations.

When I asked a Japanese aquaintance about the morale behind Lexus and their shameless imitation of Mercedes he said with a smirk "Imitation is the highest form of flattery"
Oh, God. I hope someone "flatters" Toyota and Lexus one day and gives them a dose of teir own medicine. So far, they have nothing much worth copying....

Every Lexus on the road is a symbol of lack of honor, of lack of the ability and decision to build your own car, of going your own path. Every Lexus on the road is a symbol of shameless imitation and of the attempt to hook onto the excellent reputation built by Mercedes over decades of research, engineering and racing expience. As a parasitic design, Lexus lives off the feeling and memories you get when you see a mesterfully built car, a Mercedes-Benz. Lexus tries to steal those feelings, by looking as close as possible to a Mercedes. It tries to steal those feelings and to attach them to their own cars. Not quite honorable.

When is Lexus going to grow up? Other companies al over the world are quite able to manufacture their own cars in their own right and be proud of it. Not just BMW, not only Audi, yes, also Cadillac. Cadillac is a prime example. Cadillacs have very distinctive lines, a clear design that says "I am a Cadillac and I am proud of it". Cadillac does not advertise that it "pursues Medcedes", Cadillac simply announces in their ads that they are a thrilling, powerful and elegant car.

Why is Lexus so terrified to stand on it's own feet? Is the company not aware that it loses all respect by being the copy-cat company, by being the parasites on Mercedes' back, the "moochers"?
Yes, Lexus may have to get rid of that calcified stubborn top management that clings to the notion that only Mercedes and BMW are great cars. The upper management of Lexus is so conservative in their attempt to mimick Mercedes and BMW that they did not copy the Audi lights - the row of small circular lights in the main front headlights. No, they had to wait until Merecedes adopted them too - and "Bang", suddenly Lexus had them too, the lines of little circular bulbs in their headlights. Now even their lights at night are hard to distinguish from a Mercedes.
Guys, stop already. Hire a few original designers, and yes, there are plenty of them around, and go for it. Create your own look. Italians are particular good at design, Californians are good, hey, great designers are everywhere. Although I suspect it is really the upper management at Lexus that has to change before this happens.
Stop being the moochers! Nobody has respect for copiers and imitators. As long as Lexus keep imitating, imitating, persuing, persuing, running after Mercedes, as long as Lexus does that, the company is an embarrassment for it's country. Stand by yourself, grow up! Everybody else does it...