Pete Buttigieg: The 7 Issues Guide

Today I bring you the 6th installment of TokyoSand’s excellent series, The 7 Issues Guide, helping us get to know a bit about the platforms of the democratic candidates running for president next year. Pete Buttigieg is on deck today, and he is one that I know very little about. Thank you, TokyoSand, and your diligent volunteers, for helping us get to know Mr. Buttigieg!

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buttigieg Pete Buttigieg; Photo by Yuri Gripas, Reuters

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. To briefly use a sports analogy, I see our candidates as the starting players on the Blue team, each bringing their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve enlisted the help of a team of terrific volunteers who have helped gather quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified…

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Last Week Today

I was reminded that I didn’t do a post with ‘toons last week, so consider this to be last week’s post this week.  Rather like the title of John Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight.  Much was in the news this week, but the cartoonists grabbed one topic as their central focus … the college admissions scandal.

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Then there was Trump’s ludicrous budget proposal …

budgetbudget-2budget-3Federal budget

The tragedy of immigrant children, separated from their parents and kept in ‘detention centers’ …

immigrantimmigrant-2Bruce Plante Cartoon: DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

And a few just about Trump and his circus act …

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TrumpA Trump embraceTrump-3Trump-4Trump-5Wall

Have a great week!

A New Batch of Snarky Snippets …

There was much big news this past week, mostly the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the two mosque shootings in New Zealand and add to that Trump’s veto of the bipartisan bills to halt his emergency declaration and his frequent Twitter rants.  So, smaller stories may have gotten lost in the shuffle.  Now that I have caught my breath, I’ve caught up on email and would like to bring you some of those little stories, along with, of course, my snarky commentary.


Kellyanne speaks … sort of

Just as Trump shuns our friends, nations that have long earned our respect, and panders to dictators who have by no means earned our respect, he shuns the legitimate press and panders to the likes of Fox, Breitbart and even Alex Jones.  Thursday, he gave an interview to Breitbart, and here is a snippet of what he said …

“I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

Oooohhh … tough talk from a wuss who cries every time somebody says something negative about him!  But then, the next day, America’s #1 bimbo, Kellyanne Conway, appeared on CNN for a segment with Chris Cuomo.  Cuomo mentioned Trump’s remark and asked Kellyanne if she really thought that was appropriate speech for a world leader, given that it sounds more like something Don Corleone would have said.  Kellyanne’s response?

“You’re just reading into it like you usually do. He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.  Christopher, he didn’t threaten and he’s not threatening violence.”

Cuomo gave up on that one and moved to another topic.  In a Wednesday interview, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said that morals don’t matter much when it comes to presidents.  Cuomo played that clip for Kellyanne, and mentioned, as a lead-in to a question, that the Republican Party once had a mantra, “character counts”.  Before he could get to the question, Kellyanne burst forth with …

“I’m sorry is there a question lurking in there or are you pontificating? Because you invited me on here to answer questions.”

The entire interview was ridiculous, but good for a few laughs if you have the stomach for it and ten minutes to spare.


A real shocker!

Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was attending a vigil for victims of Friday’s massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, when she was confronted by a student who seemingly blamed her for the massacre.

“This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world. And I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deep down inside. Forty-nine people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.”

Clinton handled the situation with remarkable aplomb …

“Certainly, it was never my intention. I do believe words matter. I believe we have to show solidarity.”

But here is the strangest thing of all.  Somebody you would least expect came to her defense.  Take a guess … a wild guess.  Give up?  It was Don Trump, Jr.!

“It’s sickening to see people blame @ChelseaClinton for the NZ attacks because she spoke out against anti-Semitism. We should all be condemning anti-Semitism & all forms of hate. Chelsea should be praised for speaking up. Anyone who doesn’t understand this is part of the problem.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather!


Thumbs-up x2 for New Zealand’s good sense …

In the wake of Friday’s mosque shootings, a few people have said some really, really ignorant and cruel things.  One of those people was none other than radical Milo Yiannopoulos, who is apparently trying to set a record for being uninvited to the most places.  Yiannopoulos was scheduled to visit Australia and had just been issued a visa over the objections of the home affairs department.

But then, in a Facebook post, Yiannopoulos blamed the radicalism behind the attack on left-leaning progressives, and called Islam a “barbaric, alien religious” culture.  After that, immigration minister David Coleman said on Saturday that comments about Islam made by Yiannopoulos in the wake of the Christchurch massacre were “appalling and foment hatred and division” and he would not be allowed in the country.  Score one for common sense!

In the aftermath of the shootings, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a promise to the people:  “Our gun laws will change”. While most European nations ban them, New Zealand allows, with a special permit, pistols, semi-automatic weapons and machine guns.  That is the only major difference between NZ and most other European nations’ gun laws, and it was the reason the shooter, Brenton Tarrant, came to the country from his native Australia, to do his dirty deeds.

New Zealand Attorney General David Baker announced at a vigil late Friday that the country would ban semiautomatic weapons.  Although this will require more than a statement by the Attorney General and the Prime Minister, and is far from a done deal, isn’t it refreshing to see a country that doesn’t hide behind a shield, a country where the heads of government put the lives of the people they represent ahead of the profits of gun manufacturers?  Listen up, U.S. lawmakers!

Score two for common sense!


A bit of good news …

I conclude with a tidbit of good news.  The University of Tennessee announced recently it would guarantee free tuition and fees to admitted in-state residents with a family household income of less than $50,000.  University President Randy Boyd announced the program, to start in the fall of 2020, saying …

“This isn’t a school just for the wealthy or the elite. This is a school for everyone. It is critically important that we take a lead role in ensuring students can achieve their dream of obtaining an undergraduate college degree. It is our mission and responsibility to do everything we can to ease the financial burden for our middle- and working-class families, and UT Promise is an ideal conduit to achieve that.”

Let us hope that this paves the way for many, many more colleges and universities to offer similar opportunities.  Similar free-tuition programs are available in Oregon, Nevada, Arkansas, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Indiana. Lawmakers in eight other states are considering similar programs.  Eat your heart out, Betsy DeVos!


I think that’s about enough of my snarkiness for one day, so enjoy what’s left of your Sunday, and I shall return in the morning with Jolly Monday!

DOA … Dead On Arrival

Fortunately, since we have a caveman at the helm, the president does not write the budget – Congress does.  The president can submit his proposal, his request or wish list, but at the end of the day, it is Congress who writes the budget.  Thankfully.

This week, Trump gave his wish list to Congress, and as we all suspected, it is atrocious.  In short, he wants to take as much as he can possibly take from We the People and give as much as he possibly can to his wealthy cronies, raising the already-staggering deficit in the process.  Let’s take a look at some of the most egregious items, shall we?

  • First, there is “the wall”. Since he couldn’t bully Congress into giving him the $5.7 billion he asked for to start work on the wall, he is now asking for $8.6 billion!  And this guy is supposed to be a master dealmaker?  The art of compromise is entirely lost on him!
  • Then there is the environment. His proposal is to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31%.  It would cut the EPA’s Global Change Research office, which exists to provide scientific information to policymakers about the threats posed by climate change, as well as a number of other programs involving clean water and air.
  • Along similar lines, he proposes massive cuts to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) renewable energy and energy efficiency budget … some 70%!!! The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which falls under the DOE, provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year in grants and other financial assistance for clean energy, has financed research into technologies ranging from electric vehicles to energy projects powered by ocean waves. It has been credited with financing research to help make the cost of wind power competitive with coal, and cutting the costs of LED lighting.

Note that Trump has repeatedly vowed to zero out federal spending on clean energy research and development, while doing everything in his power to promote and even subsidize the fossil fuel industry.  The only conclusion that can be drawn is that either he truly desires the destruction of the human race, or he is really that damn stupid.

  • He proposes to cut safety net programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance, all programs that low-income families depend on for their very survival. In spite of inflation, he proposes to freeze the maximum Pell Grant for low-income college students.
  • He has also proposed to cut Medicare … that benefit that we all paid into every single paycheck of our lives … by $845 billion over the next ten years! And … he plans to cut $25 billion from Social Security … again, a program that we all paid 6.2% of our gross pay into every paycheck we ever earned in our entire lives!

Note that in 2016, when he was still a wanna-be, he said, “I’m not going to cut Social Security, like every other Republican, and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.” More damn lies! 

  • He also proposes to cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 16 percent and the Education Department by 12 percent.
  • He does, however, wish to increase the defense budget by $750 billion (that’s in addition to the $8.6 billion for his damn wall).

No part of the plan addresses increasing revenue, and in fact it extends the tax cuts for the wealthy that were passed in December 2017.  It is by no means a balanced budget, and will absolutely, without question add to the national debt and deficit, both of which are already out of control, by trillions of dollars.  What happened, I would ask, to those fiscal hawks that put Obama down for eight years for not balancing the budget, for deficit spending?  Yo!  Republicans!  Can y’all hear me out there in la-la land???  This ‘man’ you all think so much of, that you’re willing to lose friends over, is going to cut Social Security … the money you have saved for your retirement since the first day of your first job.  Are you going to continue to sit on those fat, white posteriors and not even raise a stink?

But, there is good news.  And that is …

Trump’s budget proposal does not stand snowball’s chance in hell of passing Congress!  Not even a slight chance.  Even the republicans don’t like it!  It is naught but his pie-in-the-sky wish list.  However … what it does do is it speaks volumes about Mr. Trump’s priorities, and his lack of concern for the people who put him into office.  A president is elected, in theory, by the majority of the voters.  In Trump’s case, he was not elected by the majority at all, but was nearly three million votes short of it.  One might think that would make him work a lot harder to win over those of us who did not vote for him, but instead, he devotes seemingly every waking moment to finding ways to stab us in the back.

We’re tired of it.  Instead of working with Congress to attempt to develop a budget that benefits the nation and its people, he is submitting a proposal that his own advisors have told him will not fly.  He is working against the very people he swore to represent.  His priorities are a wall, his rich cronies, his Star Wars-type toy, a ‘Space Force’, and other useless crap, for lack of a better word.  Meanwhile, the poor and middle class, the 99% of the nation, will suffer if he gets his way.  Those are his priorities, folks.  His budget proposal tells us exactly where we stand … out in the cold.

Elizabeth Warren: The 7 Issues Guide

Today I present to you the fourth in the series by TokyoSand titled The 7 Issues Guide. This time she introduces us to Senator Elizabeth Warren. I’ve always thought that Warren has sound ideas, that she is more about the people of this nation than some. However, I would note that the Senator has a few issues that I believe will make her candidacy very difficult. One of those is the same issue that Hillary Clinton had, that she is not considered to be particularly “personable”. However, she has a solid platform, and that should matter more than personality. Thank you, TokyoSand and your diligent volunteers, for this excellent series, and for your generous permission to share!

Political⚡Charge

Screen Shot 2019-03-03 at 8.29.43 PM

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. To briefly use a sports analogy, I see our candidates as the starting players on the Blue team, each bringing their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve enlisted the help of a team of terrific volunteers who have helped gather quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified as the most important. I hope…

View original post 1,798 more words

Julian Castro: The 7 Issues Guide

This is the third of TokyoSand’s excellent series that introduces us to the many candidates who will be running on the democratic ticket for the office of president next year. So far we have met Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, and today we will meet Julian Castro. This is an excellent series providing valuable information about the candidates all in one place, so I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it. Thank you again, TokyoSand, for this post and permission to share it!

Political⚡Charge

castro Photo Credit: Bahram Mark Sobhani

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. To briefly use a sports analogy, I see our candidates as the starting players on the Blue team, each bringing their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve enlisted the help of a team of terrific volunteers who have helped gather quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified as the…

View original post 1,784 more words

PLEASE — More Respect, Less Hate

No matter which side of the partisan divide you are on, which side of the Trump coin you prefer, I think the one thing we can all agree on is that the two years of the Trump presidency has been the most divisive of any in the history of this nation, perhaps with the exception of the Civil War era, but I’m not even certain of that.  It has absolutely been the most divisive in my lifetime and that of anyone reading this post.

This post is not about Donald Trump … I have made my feelings about him clear in enough other posts … but rather it is about the hatred and divisiveness that people on both sides of the equation are engaging in and that is leading us down a path of destruction.  What brought this about and why now, considering that I have written no less than six past posts with the word “Respect” in the title?  A number of things, but it began with this headline …

High school basketball team pulls out of game after controversy over fans with Trump sign

It happened last week in Minnesota, where the Roosevelt High School basketball team visited Jordan High School for a game.  Roosevelt players are predominantly black, while Jordan players are predominantly white, and Jordan fans decided to fly this flag …trump flagIt’s high school, folks!  High school sports, for Pete’s sake!  Granted, some of these young people will be able to vote in the next election, and it’s a good thing for them to study civics, to learn about our government and the people in it, but it is not a good thing for them to bring political icons into high school sporting events.  The upshot is that now, Jordan High School has canceled yesterday’s scheduled game against Patrick Henry High School for one of two stated reasons: a) they feared something might happen to their players in retaliation for the flag incident, or b) the team did not want its presence at the event “to detract from the athletes”.  Whichever reason, it does not matter … what matters is that sports is supposed to teach young people sportsmanship, teamwork, cooperation … it is supposed to bring positive things into kids’ lives, not hate, not racism and bigotry.

What’s next … kindergarten kids wearing those red hats and beating up other kids because they look different?

Here are two examples I found on Education Week’s website:

  • Three swastikas were scrawled on the note found in the girls’ restroom, along with a homophobic comment and a declaration: “I Love Trump.”
  • Found inside the backpack of a Latina student, a note that said: Go back to Mexico.

These incidents took place at Council Rock High School in a predominately white suburb of Philadelphia.

Education Week and others have partnered with non-profit news organization ProPublica in a project called Documenting Hate, in an attempt to understand how hate, intolerance, and bias are affecting school climate and impacting students and their educators.  Take a look at some of the incidents they have reported on … I think you will be appalled.

No matter whether you love him or hate him, nobody can deny that Trump’s rhetoric and policies have been laden with bigotry … xenophobic, racist, homophobic and misogynist.  BUT … that does not give any of us the right to act upon his rhetoric.  Freedom of Speech is one of the core principles guiding our society, our lives, but as with any and every right, it comes with responsibility.  When we ignore the responsibility, then we risk losing the right … it’s that simple.

So, you have the right to march in peaceful protest, but you do not have the right to call the police on somebody swimming in the pool at your apartment complex just because their skin is darker than yours.  You do not have the right to yell racial slurs at people in public. That is bigotry.  You have the right to attend a Trump rally … or a Clinton rally … and wear whichever hat or shirt you deem appropriate, but if you wear that hat to a bar, a sporting event or the grocery store, you are doing it only to annoy those who don’t agree with you, and you do not have that right.

beliefsYou have the right to raise your children in whatever faith you choose, but you do not have the right to teach them to hate those who don’t believe as you do.  You have a right to support Donald Trump, but you do not have the right to make obscene gestures and utter hate speech in front of national television cameras.  It all boils down to one simple word that apparently too many people in this nation have forgotten: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Write me off as a friend if you wish, but do not threaten my life.

flesh-crayonsAnd most of all, folks of both parties, please do not teach your children to hate.  Teach them to accept and tolerate everyone, regardless of skin colour, race, religion, gender, gender identification, ethnicity or party affiliation.  If you cannot tolerate someone, then stay away, leave them alone … you do not have the right to hate and hurt others and you do not have the right to turn your children into hate-mongering little people.

The Ultimate Hypocrisy …

Did you ever wonder what Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, does for a living?  Well … ‘for a living’ is likely a misnomer, for I’m fairly certain that Mikey brings home enough to pay the bills … but Karen is, indeed, gainfully employed.  She is a teacher.  An art teacher.  At a school.  A school that bars LGBT students … and teachers.

The school is Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia, where Ms. Pence previously taught from 2001 to 2013.  The school does not allow gay students and requires employees to affirm that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, despite the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v Hodges. The school’s employment application equires candidates to describe their faith in Jesus Christ, affirm that they are a born-again Christian and vow to adhere to specific standards in their personal and professional lives.  Welcome to 1692, the year the Salem witch trials began.  Welcome to the Dark Ages!  Is it not the ultimate hypocrisy that the wife of a man who has sworn to uphold the Constitution is so blatantly in defiance of the values espoused in that document?

Item #8 on the employment application requires that an applicant initial the following statement:

“I understand that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman,” it reads, adding that certain “moral misconduct” would be disqualifying, such as “heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female.”

Karen Pence signed her initials, agreeing to the above statement.  Karen Pence, the wife of the man who is likely to, through order of succession, become the next President of the United States.  Think about that one for a minute.

Unlike public schools, private schools can require students and employees to follow specific religious beliefs and adhere to certain behavior in their private lives. They are not restricted from teaching from religious texts in class and are not subject to employment discrimination laws.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, I am not against any religion per se, although I do not ascribe to any religion myself.  I believe in the doctrine of “live and let live”, and as long as people do not attempt to enforce their own beliefs on others, I do not care what religion people choose to follow.  But this … is an abomination.  If parents wish to send their children to a parochial school, as long as they are willing to fully fund their child’s education with no assistance from taxpayer money, I have no problem with that.  However … when said religious schools are exempt from federal employment discrimination laws, then yes, I have a problem … a BIG problem.  When they exclude children who do not fit into the narrow confines of their own moral views, then yes … I have a problem.

For those who might not understand my objection, let’s turn the tables just a bit.  Let’s say I want to start up a school for African-American LGBT students and I refuse to hire any white Christians, simply on the basis that a) they are Caucasian, and b) they are Christian.  How long do you think before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) shuts my school down?  Yep … less than a day after the first complaint. eeoc-1Discrimination, whether it is in employment, education or housing is wrong.  Discrimination against a specific race, age, disability, national origin, religion, gender, or gender identity is wrong.  Such discrimination is against the law.  Period.  And here’s a really terrifying thought …

“It is a place that partners with families, always looking far into the future, preparing a generation of young people who will someday take our place as parents, teachers and leaders.” 

Mike Pence, Karen Pence and the Immanuel Christian School need to get over their feelings of superiority and come into the real world where people are different, yet can live together in a world of peace, mutual respect, compassion, and love.  Isn’t that, after all, part of the Christian dogma?  Or has it changed?

A side note:  Mike Pence’s daughter, Charlotte, wrote a book about a bunny … or more specifically, a day in the life of the Vice President as seen through the eyes of her bunny, Marlon Bundo.  Last spring, late-night comedian John Oliver re-wrote the book just a bit, making old Bundo gay, hooking him up with another boy bunny, and sending the two on a quest to get hitched.

Oliver’s book was an instant success, and even Charlotte Pence bought a copy, saying …

“I have bought his book. It doesn’t have to be divisive. I think that everybody can come together over Marlon.”

And the real kicker … the Trevor Project—a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, which split the proceeds from Oliver’s book with an AIDS nonprofit—announced that it had shipped 100 copies of the thing to Immanuel Christian School!  Along with the books, they included a note …

“Policies and rhetoric that exclude or reject LGBTQ youth can lead to increased risk for suicide and depression, and it’s our organization’s mission to end suicide among LGBTQ young people.  With your help, we hope you will change your school’s student and employee policies to accept LGBTQ students and employees.”lgbt flag

 

Filosofa’s State of the Union Address

Yesterday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, sent a letter to Donald Trump strongly urging that he either reschedule the State of the Union Address or deliver it in writing, in the wake of the ongoing government shutdown, which entered its 26th day on Wednesday, and which has affected nearly 800,000 federal workers. Pelosi cited critical government agencies in charge of overseeing the event — namely U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security — that have been hobbled by the shutdown.

Under the circumstances, it is highly unlikely that Trump will, in fact, deliver a State of the Union address in person on Friday, 29 January.  So, it seemed prudent, just in case I am asked to deliver it in his stead, to go ahead and write my own speech … Text dividersGood evening Ms. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans.

Ms. Pelosi graciously invited me to fill in for Mr. Trump in giving the State of the Union Address tonight, for with the government shutdown in its 39th day, the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security are stretched far too thin to provide adequate security to attend this address to Congress.  It was determined that far fewer people want to bump me off than Mr. Trump, so my safety seems not to be at risk and thus I am here to deliver the speech to Congress and the Nation tonight.  Mr. Trump’s speechwriters worked very hard to provide me with a written speech, however, I seem to have left it back at the hotel, so luckily I have written my own.

This is called the State of the Union address because the purpose is to inform the American people how the country is doing, and where we are going, what we plan to accomplish in the coming year.  Let me start with how we are doing.

America is more divided today than at any time since the end of the Civil War years.  We have problems, folks – serious problems.  As I mentioned today marks the 39th day of the partial government shutdown that is affecting everyone in one way or another.  You, the people of this once-great nation are losing confidence, and understandably so, in your government.  Investors are losing confidence and it is being reflected in the dropping stock market and also in the job market.  Consumer prices are on the rise.  The food you buy to feed your families costs more than it did a month ago and there is a very real danger that meat and produce may be contaminated, since the U.S. Department of Agriculture hasn’t sufficient staff to continue food safety inspections. 

Apart from the government shutdown, we have a plethora of other problems that we seem unable or unwilling to address.  Perhaps the most critical one is that of the environment.  Since the rollback of past environmental regulations that were intended to cut back on carbon emissions, it was reported earlier this week that carbon emissions in the U.S. have increased by 3.4%, not decreased as they needed to.  This is a problem, not only for the United States, but for our neighbors, Mexico and Canada, as well as the rest of the globe. 

The other critical problem facing the nation is that we have lost the trust and respect of our allies, which leaves us in an extremely vulnerable position.  We abandoned our allies when we announced our intent to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, when we exited the Iran nuclear agreement, and more recently when we announced that we would pull all U.S. troops out of Syria, leaving our allies holding the bag.  In addition, our threats to pull out of NATO, our unwarranted criticism of our allies, high import tariffs, and seeming attentiveness toward our adversaries further have our allies wondering whether they could depend on us in case of an emergency.  This is a dangerous situation.

Here at home, we face other problems.

Last year we saw a number of mass shootings in the United States.  113 people were either killed or injured in school shootings alone, and young people are asking us why we don’t do something, why we don’t pass laws to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental problems, of people who are known domestic abusers, why we don’t have stronger gun laws in this country. 

The nation is torn apart by the debate about immigration and a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.  Border states are particularly torn, for such a wall would limit, if not eliminate trade and tourism between our two countries and would almost certainly cause further political and economic unrest. 

Our education system is failing our young people.  They are not receiving the education they need in order to succeed, to become the next generation of leaders, of scientists, of historians or great inventors.  Instead, we are training them only for specific jobs, thereby severely limiting their options.  

We have fallen far behind other Western nations in the development of renewable energy sources, have become far too dependent on fossil fuels which are causing more damage and destruction to the environment every day.

Bigotry in all its forms is at an all time high in our nation today.  Racial tensions are the highest they have been since the 1960s when people died to gain Civil Rights for African-Americans, for all people.  Rights are being taken away from the LGBT community.  Women’s rights are being trampled.  Muslims are discriminated against openly in public.

Our elections are no longer fair, for almost every state has gerrymandered districts, newly imposed voter identification laws that discriminate against the poor and minorities.  Polling places in poor districts are closed, or in some cases the hours dramatically reduced, making it impossible for a working person in one of those neighborhoods to vote.  Foreign entities have interfered in our elections, often skewing results.  Both domestic and foreign lobbyist firms have influenced elections and now have some of the people sitting in this room tonight in their pockets. All of this has led to voter disenfranchisement and apathy.

And healthcare … drug prices are obscenely inflated in the United States, as are insurance costs.  The ACA has been chipped at to the extent that many can no longer afford their health insurance.  People are sick and dying for lack of money. 

I wish I had better news to report, but frankly, ladies and gentlemen, our nation is in a sorry state today.  I cannot speak for Mr. Trump as to any plans for the coming year, but I have given you a rundown, in brief, of the State of the Nation.  And on that note, I thank you for your time this evening.

The Conversation — Part III (Conclusion)

This is the third and final part of my series about … anything and everything!  I’ve really enjoyed this, felt like I was actually chatting with Mary all the time.  I hope you guys feel free to chime in on any aspect or topic addressed here.  As with the first two, Mary’s comment is in normal text, my responses are in blue.

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And none of this mentions the third world countries and the horrible living conditions and poverty and starvation that are in their daily lives. And we think this will change?

No, sadly the situation in the third world countries is likely, with the effects of climate change, to become far worse in the coming years.  It would take the cooperation of all the industrialized nations and their willingness to work together to help those in poor nations, to make a concerted effort to combat the loss of arable land, to help find solutions to provide potable drinking water, and to help them become economically stable, not to mention providing a wide array of health services.  All of which is a pipe dream, when the industrialized nations cannot even agree on the simplest of concepts.

Some may say I’m pessimistic, but I feel I’m realistic. Maybe it’s just the way of Mother Nature. We are the destroyers and the only ones who can bring about a possible eventual return of a healed planet, when we are gone and nature can flourish once again in peace.

Until recently, at least a few of my friends said I got on their nerves with my optimism.  But that optimism has faded with the things I have seen from the human race in the past few years.  Like you, I consider myself neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but rather, a pragmatist, a realist.  The reality is that the human race is not living up to its potential, and in the process of destroying the planet, we are also destroying ourselves.  There is still time for us to start listening, learning and trying to change, and there are signs that some are, but unfortunately not enough.  I liked a comment Robert Vella made on Part I of this series … that we have to find a way to make Joe Blow feel like he is part of the solution.  When we figure out how to do that, then perhaps there will be hope.

And although the environment is of the utmost peril to fix if at all possible, something must be done to change people’s minds about the validity of science and the scourge of racism.  Education, to me is key. The two things that work against it are far right religion and racism pure and simple.

You are spot on!  Education is the answer to both of these things … making people realize that science is not a hoax, and that all people are equal, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identification, height, eye colour, language, culture, etc., etc., etc.  And education begins where?  In the home.  We can blame the Department of Education for a lot, rightfully, and we can blame the colleges for not stepping up to the plate, but we, as parents and grandparents, have the most influence over our children in their early, formative years.  Racism breeds racism, bigotry is carried from one generation to the next.  The question, then, becomes … how do we break that cycle?

Future generations could maybe slowly reverse this environmental damage through scientific research and new technologies, but not if science is not taught and respected.

I think that if we wait for ‘future generations’, based on what I have read of the IPCC and NCA reports on climate change, it will be too late.  We have to convince governments and industries that if we don’t act now, the human race won’t survive, and it won’t make a damn bit of difference how much money they had or how large their investment portfolio, how many rooms in their mansion, or how many trips to the Riviera they took.  In truth, I suspect that those who claim to deny a belief in the science behind climate change know that they are being obtuse, know that the science is real, but are just too stubborn to act, for it might require sacrifice on their part.  And some of the extremely religious, I imagine, believe that their god will not allow anything bad to happen.  Blind faith, they call it.

Wars will continue as long as politicians and big business makes money off of them.

Agreed.  Many profit greatly from wars, especially arms manufacturers.  Others lose their lives, their sons, their husbands …

Racism and bigotry in the US will continue as long as religion castigates other non Christian beliefs and lifestyle choices.

Bigotry in all its forms will continue as long as people believe, whether because of religion or society, that they are somehow superior to others based on some irrelevant criteria.  We keep fighting the same battles over and over, thinking that we’ve finally learned something, and then, a generation or two later, we fight the same battles again.  It’s the fatal flaw of the human race.

And thus concludes this three-part series.  I hope you found it interesting, found some food for thought, and maybe even shared your own opinion on some of these topics.  Special thanks to maryplumbago for sharing her thoughts, and for agreeing to participate in The Conversation.

Links to Part I and Part II, in case you missed them:  The Conversation — Part IThe Conversation — Part II