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August 16, 2017

Trump Lies? Really?

I keep seeing posts similar to this in my FB feed:

"In my lifetime have I never seen or heard of a President being scrutinized over every word he speaks, humiliated by the public to the point of wanting to hurt someone, slander, ridicule, insulted, lied to, threatened to murder him, threatened to rape our Beautiful First Lady, and have his children also insulted and humiliated." (This is a direct quote pulled from one of the most recent posts on FB.)

Really? "In [your] lifetime"? I guess you must have died before President Obama, eh? Because most of that stuff comes up within milliseconds of a Google search for Obama. Obama was threatened with death often (remember all those effigies burned and hanged? What about those carrying signs saying he should be assassinated? What about Ted Nugent's repeated calls for Obama's death?); slandered (the whole birther movement, among others); ridiculed, lied to, and insulted (too many times and topics to even list here, and most often by the Republican leadership in Congress); Michelle was threatened with rape, death, and racist name calling on a regular basis. For the most part, most people seemed to stay away from threatening or attacking the Obama daughters, so I guess that point stands out from the above.

I get it: you are a Republican, a conservative, or simply just a fan of Trump. You want to defend him. That's fine. But why say things that are so patently untrue and so easy to prove false? Is your memory so short?

There are plenty of things you can slam Obama for that are legitimate. You may not have agreed with the choices he made or the direction he took the country. But, why do you feel the need to exaggerate, lie, or otherwise overstate how bad your candidate has it when we literally just stopped eight years of some of the worst examples of all of that?

The other issue I have is that Trump brings most of it on himself. He makes wildly false statements, and then people get upset when the news and individuals call him on it. He exaggerates things that are easily proven as exaggerations, and people get upset when he's called on it. He simply makes stuff up out of whole cloth and, when the news calls on him to provide so much as one shred of proof for these stories, people get upset. Really? But they can't remember the exact same thing happening to Obama at nearly every speech he made? How about that famous time one of the Republicans interrupted his State of the Union speech by yelling "You lie!" at the top of his lungs? Or that time that the President called the Republican leadership into the Oval Office, talked with them about the health care vote, they were shown on video both entering and leaving the White House, and yet they claimed to not go at all, let alone talk with the President that day?

I don't care which party is in the White House. When a President lies, he should be called on it. Anyone who threatens the President with harm or death should be investigated by the Secret Service and possibly incarcerated. A President's words should always be scrutinized.

Simply put: If Trump is going to lie so often, so easily, about so many easily proved things, then he gets what he deserves.

June 26, 2017

On Racism

I don't get racism. The idea of condemning an entire group of people for real or perceived issues strikes me as odd.

If you were to take the skin off of any human being, you would be hard pressed to tell whether that person was white, black, Asian, Hispanic, or anything else. Under the hood, so to speak, we are all virtually identical. The amount of melanin we have shouldn't be used to determine much of anything, except maybe how easily one will burn in the sunshine.

Think about it this way: most cars are fairly identical under the skin. Some have slightly bigger or smaller engines, some have slightly better or worse braking systems, some have some added bells and whistles, but, otherwise, they are all fundamentally the same underneath. It doesn't really matter if the shell of aluminum and plastic that makes up the body is painted white, black, yellow, or brown, the car will run the same.

Same with people.

The idea of race being a determiner for anything is a dream. It comes, primarily, from slavers during the triangle slave trade of the 1700 and 1800s and from Nazi Germany during WW2. The people behind both of those situations were biased and in the business of manufacturing differences based on skin color, and all of those opinions have been debunked over and over again.

When I was growing up, I had a bully who was black. HE was a dick, so I blamed HIM for being that dick. The vast majority of black people I've met have been non-dickish people. So too with whites, Asians, and Hispanics; I've met some individuals who were dicks to me, but overall the vast majority have been worthwhile people. Why would I paint an entire group of people with the same brush as one or two?

America is currently over 70% white. Statistically speaking, that means you are probably going to run into more dicks who are white than any other race. Should you, as a white person, be racially biased against your own race whenever you run into those occasional dicks? If you are not condemning your own race, yourself included, for a few dicks, why are you doing the same for another race?

If someone is a dick to you, be angry at that individual. Don't use your anger to paint with broad strokes an entire group of people who happen to look like that dick.

February 17, 2017

Proving Plutocracy

A "plutocracy" is one form of an "oligarchy" wherein the small group of people who run things is made up of the wealthy. While many have been sidetracked by the current administration's hyperbole and lies, the Republicans in Congress have been destroying the work of decades. And why are they doing it? Because their corporate, wealthy, billionaire masters pull their strings and tell them to.

The Republicans in Congress have started to destroy EPA rules and laws to protect endangered species and environments. What is most curious is that, in a representative democracy such as America, those in Congress are supposed to enact the will of the people they represent. And stats show that well over 80% of all people, regardless of politics, are in favor of protecting the environment and animals. So, why would Congress do these things?

Because big business finds it inconvenient. Big business wants to be able to log anywhere, to mine anywhere, to drill anywhere. They don't like having to submit EPA forms proving they won't hurt animals or the environment. They hate looking at all that potential in National Parks and Monuments and not being allowed to move in with big machinery and destroy it. They hate having to spend a little extra to make sure there is clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe.

And big business is who pays for the Republicans' to get into office. They are the ones who write the bills for Republicans and ask them to turn those bills into law. Big Business is the one pulling the strings. (This is not to say that Democrats don't get money from big business and the super-wealthy; however, the Republicans have a much tighter, pro-business/anti-regulation stance fundamentally, and big business can pull those strings much more easily for Republicans than for Democrats, who traditionally have a pro-environment, pro-regulation stance.)

The richest few, I think, believe that they will always have drinkable water and clean air to breathe. Of course, history shows otherwise; you may hurt the poorest first, then the middle classes next, but, sooner or later, the effects of unrestrained business will hurt even those who can afford the best, afford the necessities even as they sky-rocket in price and scarcity.

Clean water is good for everybody. Clean air is good for everybody. Protecting animal and plant species and environments is good for everybody. And here's why: most medications, including new discoveries, come from plants and animals. And, sometimes, those plants and animals are only found in the most delicate of environments. How many cures have we destroyed in the Amazon rain forest already, that we will never know about?

Did you know that without customers, most business fail? So, if the poor and the middle class don't have clean water and clean air, they die or move away and cannot buy your goods or services. Your business dies, just as your customers and customer base dies. It is actually in your best interest to be regulated.

Did you know that the regulation business employs thousands of people? By forcing existing businesses to regulate, the government created a ton of jobs and more economic wealth. By doing away with those regulations, business is killing other business and putting people out of work, weakening the economy and hurting their own customer base.

Republican leaders are going back to their constituents and finding them angry. They are being attack on health care, the environment, and regulations by members of their own party because they are not doing what their people want them to do. They are not listening. These leaders are fleeing from their own constituents, ducking out of meetings, and "needing" police escorts because they refuse to do the will of the people they serve.

The people have to take back control of Congress. If over 80% of people like the environment and want to regulate whether businesses can drill, mine, or pollute there, contact your representative by phone or (snail) mail/postcard. They cannot ignore a ton of phone calls and mail arriving at their offices. Be polite, courteous, and consistent in your message. And, if they don't listen, DO NOT VOTE FOR THEM IN THE NEXT ELECTION!


February 15, 2017

Where We Are

One of the things that frustrates me the most about this Nationalistic movement is that it is predicated on things that President Obama actually tried to do. He wanted to put a bunch of people to work on infrastructure. He wanted to get people training so that they could go from coal and gas to solar and wind (and others). He wanted to do a lot of things within the borders to get people working, get people spending money, and get people happy again.

And the Republicans blocked him every step of the way. They blocked his works bill for infrastructure every single time the Democrats put it forth... while refusing to bring forth their own works bill or work with Dems to make a bill they would pass. They blocked his bills for putting money toward re-educating people. They blocked nearly ever piece of legislation that the Dems put forth toward 'making America great again' and refused to help on bills that the Dems pleaded with them for bipartisanship. President Obama even put forth a moderate Supreme Court nominee nearly a year before leaving office, a person that many Repubs openly stated was a good choice and someone they would consider, and then the Repubs refused to do their job and, at the least, vet the candidate.

If you read pretty much any news that is not American news over the last 8 years, you would see that President Obama overcame the negative perception of the country built up over the previous 8 years of President Bush and got the world looking at America as a leader and innovator. The rest of the world praised Obama with his policies of sanctions against Syria, Russia, and others. The rest of the world saw those sanctions working and forcing the sanctioned countries to do things differently. You would read about how world leaders liked, praised, and enjoyed working with Obama, trusted him and his stance on things.

Now, those same leaders and news organizations openly mock the current American administration. They fear the isolationism and nationalism that the current administration states is its goal. They worry about the nationalists in their own countries as they surge because of the results of "BRexit" and the American presidential election. After America leading the way out of the recent economic collapse, the world fears that America's isolationism will stall that same economic recovery and even reverse it. Basically, the world is scared.

The current administration lies. It claims that Obama didn't try to do the many, many things he tried. It lies about who is at fault for where we are now. It lied about cleaning out the muck of Washington DC. It lied about cracking down on Wall Street (who it called liars more than once). The current administration uses executive orders when it doesn't need to. It threatens temper tantrums if it doesn't get its way, and seems to not understand how government actually works. The current administration is in constant attack mode against a press that is simply pointing out the many, obvious, provable facts that are out there. If they will lie about those things, what else are they lying about?

I can't help but imagine where we would be today if the Republican party had actually taken President Obama's many requests to work with him to heart and done it. Imagine how much better the ACA (Obamacare) would be today. Imagine if they had worked with him on his works bills and then helped pass it... we would be 8 years ahead on fixing old bridges, repairing old dams, maintaining old sewers, and fixing streets (among many other things). Imagine how the historically low murder rates and unemployment rates would be even lower if any one of Obama's retraining/education bills had been allowed to pass by the Repubs.

There comes a point where you have to set aside your differences, realize that things are failing, and work with the opposition to make it right. You have to realize that your constituents need you to lead, compromise, and do what is best for as many different people as possible, instead of needless throwing rancor and aspersions at the other party.

That, by itself, in today's political world, is a pretty revolutionary thought, isn't it?

February 7, 2017

Executive Orders

When you have both houses of Congress decidedly on your side, you shouldn't need to enact very many Executive Orders (EO). You can introduce actual legislation that Congress can pass through the two houses and make law. Whether you liked him or not, Obama passed legislation in the first two years of his presidency because most of Congress was Democrat. He didn't need EOs to go around a hostile Congress.

So, why is Trump going the route of EOs? Why is he trying to circumvent the law creation and enactment system in place? He should, like Obama, be taking advantage of the Congress being "on his side" while it is (historically, the Congress will change to Democrat control at the two-year mark). Is it because not all Republicans are behind him? Maybe they are seeing cracks in the visage?

One of the best parts of going through the legal process of law creation is that many eyes see the legislation and, often, they can find the loopholes and unclear sections, point them out, and it can be rewritten. The EOs are not currently going through that process. Instead, Steve Bannon is writing them late at night, doesn't understand legalese, and is making very poorly worded orders that are hard to follow and will likely be overturned in Federal court.

Everything about Trump's first few weeks in office smells fishy. Hell, it appears he is not even reading the EOs he is signing. The constant leaks from the White House indicate a house in disarray, where Trump doesn't even know the contents of the EOs he's signing. In one case, he apparently became upset after learning that Bannon made himself a part of the NSC in an EO. But Trump didn't read it before signing it, so didn't know that was part of the EO? If you were President, and signing something that would, effectively, become a law, wouldn't you read it before signing it? (one of many sources) There are even some who question whether or not Trump can read. Here's one video where the gentleman makes a pretty convincing, if circumstantial argument.

Also, the literal number one item on Trump's "First 100 Days" document was getting term limits for Congress in place using a Constitutional Amendment. Yet that hasn't happened. It hasn't, to my knowledge, even been discussed. Yet, this might be the most effective thing Trump could do, getting turnover of the many 60+ year old, male, white Congresspeople for younger people of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and sexes. People who actually understand things like the social media, the immediacy of news and information today, the Internet (remember the Senator who didn't know what he was talking about and thought the Internet was made up of tubes?), how science works, and what's really happening to real people in the real world. I mean, if you are in Congress for decades, making $250k+ a year, with free healthcare for life, and all the other perks of Congress, you may just lose sight of how an average American, making less than $50k a year, who has to buy his own healthcare (or risk going without), and doesn't get the other perks has to live.

These are, indeed, interesting times. It remains to be seen how long they will last or how they will end.


January 23, 2017

Lying Liars and the Lies They Tell

What I learned in grade school, junior high, and high school is that if a person lies about the small things, they will lie about everything and they cannot be trusted with anything.

Trump has decided to lie. And he lies about the stupidest, smallest, least significant things possible. It makes no sense. If he is going to lie about things we can look out our proverbial window and see the truth of, then what will he do when something big and important comes along?

I accept he won the Presidency. I don't completely understand it, and I'm still shaking my head over the Electoral College's first chance to live up to and perform its duty as mandated in the Constitution yet refusing to do it, but I accept the results.

I cannot, however, accept the lies. I was always taught that lying is bad. Granted, we all lie every day... you know, those little white lies that everyone uses. How are you? Fine (but you're really not fine at all; you're sick, you're mentally exhausted, you're on your last nerve). Did I wake you? No (it's 3:30 am, and you were having that awesome dream where 1980's Adrienne Barbeau is throwing sandwich pickles at your bare feet, of course you were asleep).

If you voted for Trump because of religion, the lying must really gall you. I mean, most religions directly or indirectly say that lying is sinful. And yet he does it about everything. Even the most easily researched topics and least complicated areas. Why?

When I was younger, what I discovered was that the people around me that lied regularly and often usually lied at the biggest, most important times. If the teacher found out something, that person would lie to the teacher's face, accusing others or shifting blame. In one case, that person accused me and it took getting a half-dozen friends who knew I was elsewhere to get involved to shift the blame back where it belonged. In another case, someone I generally trusted, but played fast and loose with the truth, stole something of value from me that I never got back. The same person actually used a teacher's confusion over who we were to steal my higher grade in a class we both had with that teacher (still an acceptable grade, but lower than I earned; and, yes, this also points out the age and infirmity of that teacher who couldn't tell two similarly-sized, blond boys apart in his classroom).

If Donald Trump wants to lie about something as simple as the size of the gathering for his inauguration, what does he gain by it? I mean, it takes about 10 seconds to make a Google search and see pictures from a dozen or more inaugurations, and see at a glance that fewer went to his than to many others. So why state it was the largest ever? What does he get by doing that?

One person may have the answer. This was tweeted by Anna Rescouet-Paz:
Tweet posted by Anna Rescouet-Paz, January 21, 2017
That makes a lot of sense. This liar wants to set up the ability to lie again and again. He wants to make lying so regular, that those who listen to him will not know or, and this is the key part, question the lies he speaks. He wants to keep his base distrustful and aggressive toward everyone else. He wants to further divide the nation.

And he may succeed. Because the people who want to hear this are coming from an emotional place. They are emotionally invested in Trump and in his lies, and they do not want to hear or accept facts that run counter to that emotion. They believe that foreigners are bad, are going to kill them, and are taking their jobs, even when there is no evidence to prove it. They believe that other races are out to get them somehow, even as the fact of being employed by, or working with, other races has never been an issue for them. They believe that Trump can bring back jobs even though those jobs have been gone for 20 years and are never coming back, but new jobs for which they could retrain are already here.

I can't help but wonder what Trump and his administration will say if and when something big happens. What if we have another attack on our soil? Can we trust that anything said by him will be true? What if Russia pushes toward global expansion and world war? Will Trump tell us truly, or let the Russians do what they plan? What about North Korea and Kim Jong Crazy? He claims to have missiles now that can reach America... will Trump tell us if that is the case, and what will he say if he does?

To counter lies and misinformation, I get my news from a variety of sites. I read a little right, a little left, and a lot of foreign press (who, generally, don't have a dog in the fight). I try to find the consistent facts and I believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle. But I know I'm also fairly uncommon in my quest for truth and facts from news. I fear for the Average American who listens to his or her echo chamber and simply reinforces the emotional truth they already believe in, facts and evidence be damned.

I fear where this president could lead the nation, even while I cautiously hope he has an epiphany and realizes how big and important the job he just undertook will be. I hope I'm wrong about him, but history shows that lying liars usually just keep telling bigger and bigger lies until they are stopped.

Trump is the Man

I want this known: the legal process of electing a President has concluded. The Electoral college voted and, right or wrong, good or bad, it has chosen Trump as the winner with more than 270 electoral votes. I completely accept this. And, therefore, I completely accept Trump as our legally sworn-in President.

However, I disagree with nearly all of his platform as President. I think his plans, such as they are, will take the country backward in some cases and will actively harm the nation in others.

I absolutely do not agree with the whole "build a wall" plan. First, the Mexicans I know personally are hardworking, energetic people who want the American dream and go after it with gusto. They work hard, often 2, 3, 4 jobs at a time. They are willing to take on some pretty shitty jobs just to get work and make money, jobs that the average American sees as beneath them to work. Mexicans open businesses. They employ others. They have a strong work ethic, most I know are strongly religious, and most are strongly pro-family, and they are a tight-nit group. Just the sort of people you want immigrating to your country.

What we should be doing, rather than building a wall, is increasing talks and relations with Mexico. Getting more of them to immigrate legally. Looking for skilled workers, like programmers, managers, and builders, and entrepreneurs who want to open businesses and welcoming them in with open arms. If we do that, the need for a wall will virtually disappear and we bring more wealth into the country as they open those businesses and work those jobs here.

We don't need a nationalistic approach to jobs and trade. We just need to stop thinking that any trade deal with a country is better than no trade deal at all. We need to show countries, like China, that if they are going to cap and trade clause our goods coming into their country, then we will do the same to theirs. That will cause them to rethink their priorities, which allows us to ease trade barriers to them over time -- win win. NAFTA has been an unmitigated success for the countries involved; no need revoke it or back out of it. Is it time to look at possible tweaks and revisions? Sure. That is always a good thing, and all countries should do it from time to time. But backing out completely? That's the sign of someone with a narrow perspective or a lack of information, not a visionary leader.

In many cases, companies don't need to be actively harmed by taking jobs out of the country, they just need incentives to keep as many as possible within the country. We need to be looking at how to provide incentives for the companies to keep the profits here, in the country, without penalizing them. Companies are fairly predatory creatures and the seek out the greatest profits -- how can we incentivize them to keep a job in the USA with workers that make salaries and have benefits, versus giving that job to someone in a foreign country that makes 1/5 the salary and, often, has no benefits to pay? Well, as I roll from this into the ACA discussion, one way would be to switch to a universal, single-payer insurance system, which would take a huge chunk of money the company has to pay US employees out of the equation, closing the wage gap slightly between the US worker and the foreign worker.

Repealing healthcare? Why? Is the ACA (aka Obamacare) really that bad? Of course not. Any plan the Republicans come up with will mimic or copy much of what is in the ACA today. So why repeal the entire thing only to replace it with something that will, likely, be about 70-80% the same?

Trump has yet to make a truthful or verifiable statement about the ACA, and that seems to indicate that he either doesn't understand it or is willfully ignorant about how well it has worked. Is it great legislation? Hell no. It has way too many loopholes that need to be closed, it would be far better as a single-payer system, and we need to browbeat the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies that exist into lower prices and better service (as all single-payer systems around the world have done, to the betterment of the peoples' health in those nations). Again, tweaks and revisions are all that is needed. Hell, even Republicans are questioning the Republicans' desire to repeal this legislation without having a firm, verifiable plan that the people can read and comment on first. That's really all the Republicans need to do, too. Just present a better plan or a better revision to an existing plan and let the American people decide if it should be enacted. Maybe a repeal isn't needed. Either way, the American people will still think the Republicans are doing a good job leading the country and listening to its people. Right now, there are many who feel they aren't listening at all... even to their own like-minded constituents on this topic (and others).

His plans to deregulate the banking industry? Well, Clinton and "W" did that, and we achieved one of the worst financial collapses in the country, and it took years and re-regulation to dig out of it. Why do what has already proven not to work? Dodd-Frank is a good thing. It keeps the banking industry honest in its dealings with its customers and the nation. Deregulating energy companies so they can amp up production and go after harder and harder to reach energy reserves? Again, we've done that, many times, in the past. Each time it has achieved sick people, destroyed ecosystems (like drinkable water) and caused millions and billions in health, property, and clean up damages. Why would we ever do that again? It has proven not to work, time and again.

Questioning climate change? Well, here's the thing; every other nation (including China!) is leading the way to cleaner energy. Some countries, like India are actively promoting solar and wind at a massive rate. And, this is the kicker, they get most of the technology from the US. The rest of the world going green is actively helping the US economy. Now, imagine if the US stopped arguing over climate change and, instead, continued to add jobs and incentivize the green industries? Hell, we'd have thousands of new jobs, thousands more exports, and millions more dollars pumping into local economies. What if those areas where coal is played out and the mines are closed were where we built solar panel factories? What if where shale gas would be pumped, and ruining the local ground water, instead we built a large wind turbine factory? What if, in those area where oil wells are running dry, we built solar roadway production factories? What if we built desalination plants and water turbine and geothermal factories, employing people to make the technology of the future, rather than continuing to protect and prop up the existing oil industry? This is visionary leadership, not deregulating and allowing the gas and oil industry to plunder our national parks and monuments, clear-cutting forests, and destroying what limited drinking water resources the nation has.

The one area that I agree with Trump is that our federal government needs to be cleaned up. We absolutely need term limits in Congress to get turnover and fresh ideas. We need to do away with gerrymandering and rigged elections. However, I question how he is going about doing it. How is electing people who literally have no clue about the jobs they are nominated for (DeVos, Romney, Carson, et al) going to achieve success? How is having one of the architects of the last economic collapse in your cabinet going to help you "clean up the swamp"? It makes no sense.

So, I completely accept that this man is now our legally chosen President. As you can see, however, I do not accept his platform. I think it is narrow, short-sighted, and could harm the nation over time. I hope I'm wrong, and I hope he surprises me (and us), but his first, stumbling steps have not been promising.