In Defense of Trump, or, How I Learned to Love the Bomb

These days I have been known to pound Bernie Sanders while subtly detract from criticism of Donald Trump.  Why?  Why would I do that…?  They say in polite company we should never openly speak of religion or politics. Screw that.  This is America.  Not just America, but ‘MURICA.  While my friends (majority left-leaning) probably shudder to hear that, my thoughts on this subject spoken openly, is not of the content that will win me praise from the majority of them.  By the way, I also know my use of footnotes is not academically correct, so piss off about that.

And just so you know, I volunteered for Kerry’s campaign and the last two Obama campaigns.  This is my fridge:1457625451798-901374983

 

Bernie Sanders as President of the United States of America is dangerous. Like “Holy Sh*t”-level dangerous.  What I see in him is a mirror of the irrational anger reflected in the rise of Trump, yet on the Liberal side of politics.  Although in my mind Sanders is worse than Trump, and he’s why:
Bernie Sanders is the end of the status quo that has been the dominance, or at least preeminence of the last70 years.  In short, Bernie Sanders wants to transform America into a European-modeled socialist republic of the ilk found in the EU.  “What’s wrong with that?” you may ask.  Well plenty…

Namely, it’s impossible. As argued by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman[1], America won’t stomach such a transition.  Krugman looked at the numbers released for Sanders’ single-payer healthcare plan and argues that such a reform is impossible due to the current political climate in America.  Any attempt a dtramatic changes to the larger paradigm of American society would fail and use up any prospective political capitol Sanders may earn by hypothetically being elected POTUS.
I make that same argument with the supermajority of Sanders’ campaign promises.  Supposing the argument that Sanders is elected as POTUS, almost all of his platform wish list would need to be legislated into law.  If we look at the trouble Obama has had with everything over the last 7 years, what seriously makes anyone believe there will be the type of bipartisan compromise that would be needed to pass an obvert socialist agenda?  President Obama isn’t even a real socialist, just a supposed one in the minds of the paranoid and bitter Republicans fringe.  His by partisan healthcare reform (aka Obamacare) is under threat of repeal to this day.

 

Now there are “plenty of puppies and rainbows” [2] in Sanders’ plan to pivot into a semi-socialist state.  That being said, who even wants to be an entitlements-for-all welfare state in today’s economy?  Sure, many countries have it better than the US in terms of healthcare and education, but that’s not really sustainable.  If we look at Japan, there are astronomical levels of debt to GDP as the payoff ‘free’ healthcare for all.[3]  Yes, Japan has structural and demographic differences that differ from an apt comparison to the US.  But economists in England[4] and politicians in Norway and Denmark are projecting that the traditional European-style welfare state is under threat with the global economy as it is.  There is an economic carrying capacity to how much wealth can be transferred with limited revenue.   Governmental spending on social programs is necessary, and often even a boon to the economy.  It helps drive consumption and acts as a safety net to the most vulnerable Americans.  However, spending must be put into the context of how much debt can be sustained.  Even left-leaning economists[5] are arguing that what Sanders’ is promising is unrealistic in terms of how much it will cost.

 

On National Defense, Sanders’ policies could seriously threaten American security and that of our allies. Sanders’ plans include dramatic cuts to military spending.  That in itself is not a bad thing.  One of America’s greatest Republican presidents, Dwight Eisenhower, even famously warned us of the Military Industrial Complex.  It’s an insidious parasite on America, which wastes tax payer money.  But not all defense spending is bad spending.  Having the mightiest military on the face of the planet is good for America and world peace.  We protect our allies today, in places like Japan and South Korea, from nations that would gladly encroach on their territorial sovereignty in the best case scenario.  In the worst case, unchecked foreign actors would openly attack our friends around the world.  Russia’s actions in the Ukraine are an example of why a powerful military is a deterrent to conflicts against our interests.

True, America can also be the source of instability. What would the Middle-East look like today, if not for the Iraq War?  Be that as it may, some of our enemies only respect our saber rattling from time to time.  The American military is only a tool.  When a tool fails you address the user, not the need to have it.  Is it really okay to leave the state of world peace in the hands of Russian, Chinese, Iranian or North Korean diplomats?  If ISIS or Al Qaeda attack America or its allies, is it really okay for Sanders’ to leave them unpunished?

 

On Education, Sanders’ is trying to promise free higher education for all of America. I call BS.  First, assuming it was something we could actually afford, what is the value of it when it becomes ‘free’?  America has arguably the best collective higher education institutions in the world.  Some countries with free education are Brazil, Germany, Finland, France, Norway, Finland and Sweden[6].  Not to denigrate the education of any of these countries but none of them have the collective prestige and reputation of America’s universities.  In making higher-Ed freed and funded solely by the taxpayers, you are going to seriously see a degredation in quality.  “Free” doesn’t mean free. We will then have a system similar to our primary and secondary educational system which is constantly underperforming and underfunded.  The American taxpayer isn’t going to want to invest for the best research facility or the newest equipment in every single university across the country.  It will be a system with winners and losers.

Inequality will be rife amongst students as rich students will still be able to find elite places to pump them back into society as “the best and brightest,” but poorer communities will have less to offer the best professors. There will be an increased demand by students who will expect to go to college yet are ultimately less driven as higher education is an entitlement program, and not earned.

On a personal note, I can attest that something needs to be done about the cost of college. Furthermore, the student loan system that cripples college goers with unrelenting debt also needs to be addressed.  But simply making it free is not the answer.

I look at my college degree is the “skin in the game” in my adult life. My education debt is in excess of $50,000, which by some comparisons is relatively cheap.  However, even I have suffered from the end of deferments, default, garnishment of my income tax refund and bad credit.  I have been able to bring some of my loans out of default as my income has mildly improved, but I still am unable to save or invest in my retirement as my debt and its interest eats a large portion of my income.  Nevertheless, I still see my education as an investment in myself.  I like to think that I have bettered myself and my community by being an educated, better informed citizen.

 

What has to be reformed is the interest on the debt. America owes anywhere from $708 billion to $1.3 trillion dollars in student loans[7].  The interest off any of those figures is mind boggling, and requires someone smarter than I to explain what the horrors of what compound interest means in lay terms.  What it effectively means to me is that I throw my money at an open hand, and some of it pays my debt and some of it disappears in the ether, but all the while my debt persists.

That it means for America is that a huge amount of our national wealth is collected monthly to pay a debt while only a portion of the debt is paid. This is deadweight loss against the American economy.  These are dollars that could be used on goods and services, creating jobs, furthering growth and development, which instead swell an already bloated financial sector.

Maybe I missed it, but I have yet to hear Sanders clearly articulate how he intends to tackle the yoke of debt that burdens those of us who already attended college or university.

 

I have many other points that I find fault with Sanders on, but to be concise I will move on.

What I see in Bernie Sanders is an ideologist. He speaks on issues with what I would almost call a religious fervor.  Trump, on the other hand, is full of sh*t.  I know he’s full of sh*t, you know he’s full of sh*t.  Most of America does.  Perhaps the only one not convinced Trump is full sh*t is Trump. The reason Trump is full of sh*t is because he doesn’t believe all the stuff he says.  He has been repeatedly back and forth on the issues[8], such as gun control and abortion.  He says he wants to “make America great again,” but he doesn’t say how.  Trump is either a moron or like a fox or stupid. I would prefer either of those options over Sanders’ idealism.  The reason is that stupid can be fixed, a true believer  who would rather be a martyr than a winner (Sanders) can’t.

Trump can be surrounded by smart people. Trump can educate himself on the issues.  Or maybe, Trump is just being Trump and saying whatever he feels will get him attention despite his personal beliefs.  Maybe he will fool his way into the White House with his bombastic rhetoric and turn out to be deep thinker with profound ideas.  Well, probably not.  In any of those scenarios, I would prefer someone who can change and evolve over time rather than burn every inch of Washington instead of comprimising his convictions.  Enter Bernie Sanders.

 

Bernie Sanders wants to completely upend the status quo. It’s a status quo that clearly needs changing in some cases, but not in others.  Either way, I don’t trust Sanders and I don’t trust the mob that supports him.  I don’t trust putting all your energy in convictions.  While one can make the point that there is a mob that supports Trump, Trump’s history does not match the extreme rhetoric he spews.  Sanders’ ideology is matched, if not exceeded, by his open criticism of American institutions[9] from the Dept. of Education to the Dept. of Justice.

Some of the things Trump has said in his run for the Republican nomination have clearly been vile, but his past of supporting immigrant labor, gun control and Planned Parenthood are in stark difference to his words.

 

To say that I wholeheartedly support Trump is a satire and a fiction. I don’t think hes the most qualified or experienced.  I don’t think he has the temperament of a good statesman and world leader.  I also don’t think, despite all his saber rattling, that he’d be competent in an emergency of national security.  What I do think is that Trump is more likely to ride the winds of change if pressed, while Sanders would go down in the fight for what he wants… and take the country with him.

Ironically, I see Sanders and Trump to be the same in one very important respect. Both Sanders and Trump are willing to ignite irrational feelings around how they think policies should be, rather than pick the most pragmatic and logical policy for the given situation.  I also think the supporters of both candidates have a poor grasp of political realism in terms of what is promised and what is possible.  Trump isn’t really going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.  Sanders isn’t really going to make a four-year college education free for all.  The difference between the two is that Sanders believes he can and so do his followers.

 

Realistically, the best candidate for 2016 is Hillary Clinton. The former Secretary of State and US Senator, has a firm grasp of progressive policies but also had a demonstrated pragmatism that would lead her to build on existing healthcare reforms, rather than spend for yours in the White House fighting for a single-payer system that might never happen.  She also has demonstrated a hard line in national security that makes me believe she could go toe-to-toe with aggressive foreign powers and rogue non-government actors, like Daesh.  Like many other Clinton supporters[10], I am convinced that Clinton is the best candidate to work in today’s political environment.  As a senator from New York, Clinton has had to work with congressional colleagues in both houses of the legislature to get bills passed.

The best part about Clinton as a candidate is she doesn’t gather the fringes of an angry mob, she targets right down the middle of the progressive moderates to center-left of the Democratic Party. A vote for Sanders, on the other hand, seems to me like the leftist equivalent of Trump’s “The Loudest Wins” mentality.  While I used to distain Clinton for her disingenuous scheming, I now see the cynicism as being actually pragmatism.  If her policy outlook was permanently static, she’d never weather a primary.  In short, Clinton represents a anthropomorphized version of a political linear regression model (aka Line-of-best-fit).  Perhaps that is also the genius of Trump.  We don’t know what kind of politician he’ll turn out to be, but we must acknowledge that his political flexibility is perhaps more dynamic than any other politician in the modern age. I prefer the “Trumpizing” of the Republican electorate because it allows a bit of schadenfreude for those of us who abhor the pivot toward the conservative fringe that the Tea Party’s ideation represents.
Secondly, it allows the Democrats to take a bite out of the more moderate Republican electorate who will outright refuse to vote for Trump.
Third, if the Democrats can capture moderate Republican voters, it may pull the Democrat party’s policies more center-left rather than hard-core progressive.  A force, such as the Democrat party, needs a healthy internal opposition to ground it and keep it from herding itself to one extreme of polarization.  Donald Trump proves that with the Republicans.  Maybe, just maybe, he’s teaching us something worth listening to.

[1] http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/19/weakened-at-bernies/ Paul Krugman slams the economic and political reality of Sanders’ single-payer insurance platform.

[2] http://www.vox.com/2016/1/17/10784528/bernie-sanders-single-payer-health-care Ezra Klein denigrates the economic theory of Sanders’ healthcare plan.

[3] http://money.cnn.com/2015/07/23/news/economy/japan-debt-imf/
Japan’s debt crisis.

[4] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34272111
Can Europe still afford the welfare state?

[5]http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/us/politics/left-leaning-economists-question-cost-of-bernie-sanderss-plans.html
Sanders’ maybe significantly underestimating the cost of his policy plans.

[6] http://www.salon.com/2014/11/02/7_countries_where_college_is_free_partner/
Countries that have free college.

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/05/government-student-loans_n_6808796.html
American student loans.

[8]http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/presidential-campaign/252073-trump-on-the-issues-past-and-present
Trump on the issues.

[9] http://edition.cnn.com/2016/02/29/politics/bernie-sanders-own-words/index.html
Sanders’ own words used to describe his anger at American institutions

[10] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/us/politics/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders.html
Supporters of Hillary Clinton.

Japan wants your poop.

Specifically, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education wants you to collect a stool sample.

It’s that time of year for my school that we are doing our annual health exams. I will get to ‘look forward’ to the inevitable poking and prodding and being told that I am overweight (grossly obese by Japanese standards). These things I was expecting, having read reviews by previous JET Programme participants. What I was un prepared for was the bonus activity of having to handle my excrement.

I was issued a small, blue ziplock pouch with some items in it. The teacher who gave it to me, looked at it, looked at me, then back at it; he proclaimed with a vexed expression that he would have to write me a note with the instructions. To save time I volunteered to have my wife give me instructions. He seemed pleased with that option.

When I presented the pouch to my wife we opened it and she promptly determined it was to collect a stool sample. It contained a folded instruction sheet (in Japanese), to sample collection vials and two folded sheets of paper. The sheets of paper are to prevent your excrement from sliding down the pipe where the toilet flushes out of (pardon for my lack of plumbing terminology). Each of the vials has a small ridged plastic probe fixed to the cap. You are supposed to use the probe to penetrate the excrement to the degree that the ridges retain some of your waste. You then close the vial which contains a blue preservative liquid.

Woe to me, the barrier sheet I placed in the toilet was not strong enough to contain my sample and it tore thru. In a distressed state I called to my wife. She suggested I use disposable chopsticks to grab my sample and pierce it with the probe. After much frustration I proceeded to fish out my sample enough that I could collect material on the probe… while fighting back my intense desire to vomit.
I firmly closed the caps; triple bagged the chopsticks in a garbage bag and wiped down all surfaces with Lysol Disinfecting Wipes. The collection was successful and I was able to follow my wife’s recommendation without contaminating myself, but the psychological damage was done.

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I had just used chopsticks to grab my poo so I could poke it with a plastic stick.
I think I’ll be using a fork for a while.

When traveling by JET…

So I left the US on 07/25/15 (got to Japan on the 26th) and had a reasonably comfortable flight on Delta Airlines. My local JET Alumni Association was kind enough to see us off and give us some going away gifts.  The fan and sweat towel are lifesavers if you don’t already have them for your trip.  I typically go through two sweat towels a day, now that its the peak of summer.
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Helpful tip for the flight, food quality is better if your request a kosher meal and the seat is more comfortable if you can arrange to get a bulkhead seat (44J for me).  I’m talking about a First Class amount of legroom almost.

When you get to NRT-Narita Airport, you hit the ground running.  Immediately you check in with Immigration (where you are issued an Alien Registration Card), collect your bags, go through customs and make your way to the buses.  Those who are wise have their important items pre-packed into their one allotted carry-on and check-in bag they are allowed to take to the Shinjuku Plaza Hotel.  From personal experience, it is a pain to have to repack in the airport.  Excess baggage is sent ahead (Shinagawa Prince Hotel for TJETs) and you may not see it again for a while.
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Arriving on Sunday, we got the rest of the day off, but I was too tired and sweaty (adjusting to TKY heat) to do much other than get some basic provisions at a drug store and a simple meal at Coco Curry.  Yay~~~curry!!!!
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The following day we began our Post-Arrival Orientation.  Seattle Consulate and PNW JETAA prepared us really well and much of the content of the lectures/presentations were old hat by then.  There was some interesting information, but as it was the most basic kind of information, other parts of the content completely did not apply to the TJETs who would be placed almost exclusively at a single high school as part of our assignments.  Be prepared for a lot of sitting, clapping, trying not to fall asleep while fighting JETlag (<-that’s a pun btw), waiting for lunch, shuffling through paperwork and general amounts of boredom.  Also, bring a notebook.  The paper provided is not good for much more than writing in the margins.
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Japan Today

Japan today is very hot.  Very humid.  The Japanese term is 蒸し暑い-Mushiatsui.  Meaning muggy, but I prefer the Japanese because with as much as I sweat in this heat I feel “mushy”.  Its been 90+ degrees with high humidity.  I suffered heat exhaustion recently so make sure you drink lots of water and mind the electrolytes.  Be aware that it hits you, sometimes before you realize it.
The in-processing experience that is JET post-arrival orientation is everything and more that previous JETs said it would be.  That’s not exactly a compliment.  The JET program has a lot of moving parts to it and a lot of ALTs to administer to.  Being caught in the hustle and bustle can make you wonder what the hell you’re doing on a daily basis and how much planning was given to what you need to do when you hit the ground running.  You know that there is a theoretical plan, but just where you are in it is more of the issue.
Furthermore, Tokyo Jets as myself have compounded issues.  My situation is extraordinarily lucky as I have family in Japan helping me get set up.  But if you get selected as a TJET, you are both blessed and cursed in some ways.
I will update later with a more detailed description of it, but lets just say than katsudon for breakfast makes everything better.

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#Katsuya