Trumponomics 101

He’s cutting taxes … again.  No wait … he isn’t cutting taxes!  He’s reversing his trade tariffs.  No wait … he isn’t doing that, either!  Just what the hell is the fool in the Oval Office doing???  Nobody knows, for sure.

Economists have been predicting that the nation will see another recession before the end of 2020.  I am not an economist, but nonetheless put my two cents worth in and say I think it will come by the end of 2019, or at least a harbinger of a recession.  Trump has seemingly believed that his house of cards would stand at least through November 3rd, 2020 … election day.

Well, last week there were some warning signs.  First, Trump’s latest round of tariffs on imports from China sent retailers into a frenzy, with the holiday shopping season on the horizon, and so as the Dow headed south, Trump postponed those tariffs, and the next day all was well once again.  Then, the bond market flashed a warning signal, as the spread between the 2-year Treasury note and 10-year bond inverted for the first time in more than a decade.  That has historically presaged a recession, and so once again the market turned southward, losing about 3% last Thursday.

Trump to his base, the only people who believe a word he says, claimed that …

“Our Economy is very strong, despite the horrendous lack of vision by Jay Powell and the Fed. The Fed Rate, over a fairly short period of time, should be reduced by at least 100 basis points, with perhaps some quantitative easing as well. If that happened, our Economy would be even better, and the World Economy would be greatly and quickly enhanced-good for everyone!”

Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely if the “man” actually had a clue about what he is speaking?

He talks of further tax cuts.  Our national debt and budget deficits are both already at a historic high … and he wants to cut revenue even more???  Where the heck is the money going to come from to keep the government functioning, to pay Social Security checks and pay the military and pay for food stamps, Medicare/Medicaid, etc., etc., etc.???  How will the United States pay its loans?  Has the “man” no sense of how the economy works, how revenue vs expenses work, how a budget works?  Yeah, silly question, isn’t it?  He has no concept … he thinks you have to have an ID to buy groceries.

But it gets even better (where ‘better’ means ‘worse’ in the alternative universe).  Remember back in May 2016, when Trump was hot on the campaign trail and he made this statement …

“People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt, and I mean, these people are crazy. This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money, I hate to tell you, OK?”

Oh, my aching head!!!  Donnie, Donnie, Donnie … it is NOT that simple!  The money that is printed is expected to be backed up with real assets!  This is not an effing game of Monopoly but is real world economics!

Printing more money will only exacerbate the problem, yet that is precisely what Trump is proposing to offset the market downturn that he swears doesn’t exist.  Or rather, that he believes has been created by his enemy, “the media”.

“The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election. The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!”

print-moneyPeople … sigh … the incumbent does not know what he is doing.  He does not understand how global markets work.  He does not understand how the economy works.  He barely understands how to wipe his patootie.  To my republican friends:  I beg of you, please study this situation, try to understand what your “hero” is doing to not only this nation, but to the world.

Most presidents are not economists.  But then, most presidents hire economic advisors who ARE economists, who DO understand how the world of economics and high finance works, and more importantly, they actually LISTEN to those paid advisors.  Trump is convinced that his “gut” (and there is certainly enough of it) is smarter than all the advisors that WE THE PEOPLE are paying, and he listens to nobody.  Folks … there is a price to be paid for this folly.  We will all pay that price.  Think about it.

Trump Thumping on the Trail …

On Wednesday night, Trump did what he does best – he hit the campaign trail, starting in Duluth, Minnesota.  I’m of two minds here.  On the one hand, we aren’t paying him to campaign – we are paying him to govern.  On the other hand, the less he does his job, the fewer disasters we are likely to have.  Either way, there is some humour, not to mention some jaw-droppers, in his speech in Duluth, so I thought I would share some of the ‘highlights’, if they can be called such.  My somewhat snarky remarks are in blue

“I hate to bring this up. But we came this close to winning the state of Minnesota. And in two and a half years, it’s going to be really easy, I think.”  Why?  You gonna bribe the ones who didn’t vote for you first time around?

“We are going to win so much, win, win, win.”  When you win, win, win, the rest of us lose, lose, lose.

“The people of Minnesota cannot stand winning so much. Please, can we take it easy? And I said no, we will keep winning, winning, winning.”  How many billionaires in Minnesota? Six, according to Forbes:  Whitney MacMillan, Glen Taylor, Stanley Hubbard, William F. Austin, Martha MacMillan, John MacMillan.  The three MacMillans are of the Cargill empire.  These six may win, but the other 5.571 million people – oh well, sorry ‘bout your luck.

“Those very dishonest people back there, the fake news, very dishonest. They would have said, he is exaggerating. These are very dishonest people.”  I understand that the crowds were chanting “CNN sucks”.  What a circus!

“He will turn that country into a great successful country.” He was speaking of his new buddy, Kim Jong-un

“And the fact that we do get along means we are safe, and I’m not saying that things can happen, things go wrong and mistakes are made, relationships get broken.”  Huh?  Is the bromance over already???

“But right now, you are so safe.”  Somehow, I’d feel safer if I were in North Korea

“Hispanic American unemployment has reached its lowest level ever recorded the history of our country. And remember, I’d go into big stadiums like this that were packed?” Huh?  What has one to do with the other?

“And by the way, you’re very good at real estate. Did you see the thousands and thousands of people outside?”  Again – huh???

“And I usually go home and my wife would say, ‘How was the crowd?’ Although honestly, when you have many thousands of people like we have tonight — you know, I was at an event three weeks ago where a person from The New York Times said, ‘There was only a thousand people.’”  Can anyone find meaning in these 53 words strung together like mismatched Christmas lights?

“And we all have ego, but I don’t want to show my face.”  Um … then don’t?

“I want to show the crowds. It’s much prettier. Because you people are incredible. Unemployment among women has reached the lowest level, as of today, in 65 years.”  Wait … did the Minnesotans do that?

“And the greatest phrase, I think, in the history of politics is on all of those red and white hats that I see out there: ‘Make America Great Again.'”  People got no taste …

“So the Democrats want open borders. Let everybody come in. Let everybody pour in. We don’t care. Let them come in from the Middle East; let them come in from all over the place.”  Um … yeah … we let your grandparents in, didn’t we?  Oh yeah … big mistake.

“Democrats put illegal immigrants before they put American citizens. What the hell is going on?” No, Donnie boy, we place an equal value on all life. Except, perhaps, yours.

“Remember the original speech — right? My original speech. They are sending — you remember those words? Everyone said, ‘Oh, how terrible.’ They are sending — well, let me tell you, they’re sending — and they’re not sending their finest. That I can tell you.”  We The People of the United States of America are sick and tired of your bigotry and racism, Donnie. Get over yourself. Vaya con el diablo!

“We will have the greatest borders, the greatest walls. We’re building it. We’re building the wall. That wall is happening.”  No, Donnie, it isn’t yet, for there is no money in the pot for it.  But keep dreaming.

“And we’ll do it carefully. And maybe, if it doesn’t pass muster, we won’t do it all. But it is going to happen, I will tell you. It’s going to happen. And it’s happening fast.”  Say what???  Either we won’t do it or we will?  Which, Donnie? 

“In 500 days, we’ve cut more regulations than any President in the history of our country, whether it’s four years, eight years, or in one year — in one case, 16 years.”  Yep, in 500 days you have done more damage, more harm, than any president before you has done in 4-8 years!!!  And by the way … no president has ever been in office for 16 years.  Time for a history lesson?

“We were going in for a routine repeal and replace, and he went thumbs down. Not nice. That was not nice.”  He is referring to Senator John McCain’s vote against the attempt to repeal Obamacare.  Two thumbs up to McCain for having the guts to stand up to the bully.

“And you know, I went to people — I thought about it — I thought, oh, I think I’m such a genius.”  Idiocy is often mistaken for genius.

“They’re the smartest people. They work the hardest. They pay taxes. They do all of the things.”  He is referring to his supporters, but the same can be said of the other 60% of us in this country.  He forgets he was hired to represent ALL the people.

“Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. I’m smarter than they are. I’m richer than they are. I became President and they didn’t.”  And none of it makes a damn bit of difference, for the rest of the world has something you don’t have, DJT – character, intelligence and values.

“So what we want to do is we want to elect more Republicans so that we can deliver on all of the things I’m talking about. And I’ll be honest with you, we’re going to deliver it anyway.”  Good luck with that, Donnie. Even former respected republicans like George Will are recommending we vote against the GOP.  Which, by the way, is now just the OP.  G(rand) got lost on 20 January 2017.

“When I go around and meet foreign leaders, they all congratulate me. ‘Mr. President, congratulations on the growth of the United States. Congratulations.’ Every one of them. First thing they say. First thing they say.”  This may well be the most delusional statement I have heard in my entire life!

Well, folks, that is about as much as I can stomach.  Trump is back on the campaign trail … oh wait, he never left it, did he?  He is a campaigner, but he is not a president, since he has plans to spend most of the next four months on the campaign trail.  deport trump


My friend Eric Hols, who has only recently begun this blog, Middle Man, has written a spot-on post about the blame game that is being played by the man in the Oval Office. Please take a minute to read his post, leave a comment, and if you like his blog, click the follow button! Thank you Eric for this astute, timely post and for permission to re-blog!

Middle Man

Sixty days in and everything is cluster-f*ck.  But Trump says, “Hey, it’s not my fault!”


Health Care reform effed up?  It’s Paul Ryan’s fault! (Oh yea, and the Democrats. And the Republicans.)   Just because I had no idea what was in the bill but stupidly pushed it anyway, and just because I was impatient and petulant, and just because the bill never had a chance – it’s not my fault!

Mexico won’t build the wall?  It’s Mexico’s fault!  They should have volunteered to pay for it!  Just because I never intended to even try to ask Mexico pay for it, and just because I will never build it anyway – it’s not my fault!

Fouled up attack in Yemen? Blame the Generals! (oh yea, and Obama)  Just because Obama never authorized the raid because it was too risky but I impetuously authorized it anyway, and just because I am the…

View original post 233 more words

Trust No One …

newspaperI woke up this morning, flipped the television on, and saw … a doorman walking back and forth in front of a building.  The television camera steady on the door to what was obviously an upscale high-rise, doorman in his fancy uniform with gold braid trim, walking back and forth.  The banner at the bottom of the screen read something to the effect that Trump would be coming out any minute to go vote … for himself.  This was this morning’s “breaking news”.  Since it appeared that the camera was going to just sit there watching the doorman and awaiting the glorious arrival of the trumpeter, and then would likely follow his limo all the way to the polling place, then watch him enter the polling place, after a sigh of disgust, I turned the television off and proceeded with the tasks of the day.

The media, whether we like it or not, plays a large role in our lives today.  The media, both mainstream and social, wield a tremendous amount of power, and they may choose to use it wisely or irresponsibly.  Unfortunately, the trend is toward irresponsible reporting and it is creating havoc.  In this, the information age, we are inundated with news and opinions from so many sources that it is often difficult to know what and how much to believe.  FOX News, long noted for its biased reporting, is not alone.  Even some of the most reliable news sources sometimes break the rules of ethical reporting.

Media bias is nothing new.  In 1728, Benjamin Franklin, writing under the pseudonym “Busy-Body,” wrote an article for the American Weekly Mercury advocating the printing of more paper money. He did not mention that his own printing company hoped to get the job of printing the money.

During the 1950s-1970s, polls showed that >70% of Americans believed the media to be fair, accurate and unbiased.  However, Gallup Polls since 1997 have shown that most Americans do not have confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly”.  Much has been written about bias in the media and there are several different types of media bias, however of particular importance these days are the concepts of liberal bias and conservative bias.  Most of the mainstream media, ie., Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC, NBC, CBS, are considered to slant toward liberal ideals, with Fox News leading the smaller pack with a conservative slant.

What this means for us, as “consumers of news”, is that we must be smart, we must always read the news with a grain of skepticism, and we must learn to think for ourselves.  The Ethical Journalism Network has identified five major principles for journalism:

  • Truth and Accuracy

Journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. We should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts we have and ensure that they have been checked. When we cannot corroborate information we should say so.

  •  Independence

Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors – or the audience – any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.

  • Fairness and Impartiality

Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context. Objectivity is not always possible, and may not always be desirable (in the face for example of brutality or inhumanity), but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.

  • Humanity

Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.

  • Accountability

A sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors we must correct them and our expressions of regret must be sincere not cynical. We listen to the concerns of our audience. We may not change what readers write or say but we will always provide remedies when we are unfair.

When perusing the news, no matter what the source, it pays to consider these principles and ask yourself if the story you saw or read meets these criteria.  If in doubt, check a separate source, independent of the original.  One obstacle to completely fair and accurate reporting, of course, is that nearly all media outlets are profit-driven, meaning they rely on advertisers to stay afloat.  This means that media are constantly seeking to attract customers (viewers, readers, internet clickers).  They are pandering to the public, and what draws more attention from the public than scandal and controversy?  There is a saying in the news industry: “If it bleeds, it leads”.

The media has power; the media has control.  They control what issues we will consider important.  I mentioned in an earlier post the difference in reporting between recent terrorist attacks in Belgium and Pakistan the same week.  We were inundated with news from Brussels, but few in this country were even aware of the attack in Pakistan.  Is this a form of bias?  Absolutely.  It is cultural, or racial bias.  Media bias has done more than its fair share to exacerbate racial tensions.  When we wonder where people are getting their discriminatory ideas toward Muslims, Hispanics an African-Americans, we need look no farther than the press.  Unfortunately, there will always be people who believe what they read without researching the facts, without thinking, and that is the danger in the power of the press.

The other, related danger is that we allow the media to define certain issues and events for us.  Take, for example, terrorism.  The proportional amount of time and space the media dedicate to terrorism is disproportionate to the actual threat of terrorism in this country.  However, because of that coverage, people’s unfounded fear of terrorism leads to incidents such as the young Middle Eastern student being forced off of a flight for no other reason than that he spoke Arabic.  Somewhere along the line, the press must be held accountable for their ethics.  Is it illegal to over-report or sensationalize certain events?  No, it is perfectly legal under the 1st amendment “freedom of the press” clause, but it is, by my definition, unethical.

Yes, the media has much power, but we the people hold the keys to that power.  We have our own form of power by refusing to view or subscribe to media outlets that slant, that incite.  We have the power to think for ourselves, to question everything, and to do our own research.  In this information age, yes we are bombarded with news from 100 different sources, but we are also beneficiaries of tools that enable us to find the facts, to learn the truth.  We must hold the media accountable to a higher standard than what we have done so far.


Love ‘em or Hate ‘em, but by all means protect them

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press [emphasis added]; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Like most people, I frequently criticize the press.  I blame the press for over-reacting to some things, such as terrorist attacks, creating high levels of fear, and I blame them for creating what we now know as the Trump-monster.  Mainstream media are well-known for their biases, as well as for the way they sensationalize certain events while downplaying others.  However, when I think of the alternative, I conclude that we are far better off with than without them.  I am also a critic of social media, or at least the way in which some people use it, but again, it is an avenue for people to express themselves freely and that is essential to a democracy.

More than a third of the world’s people live in countries where there is no press freedom. In 2011–2012, the countries where press was the freest were Finland, Norway and Germany, followed by Estonia, Netherlands, Austria, Iceland, and Luxembourg. The country with the least degree of press freedom was Eritrea, followed by North Korea, Turkmenistan, Syria, Iran, and China.

Egypt arrested people for their Facebook comments. Now it’s trying to block Facebook itself. The Egyptian government has arrested or jailed several people for posting comments on Facebook that it considered inflammatory.  Journalists critical of Putin have been killed in Russia. There have been a number of cases over the years. The Committee to Protect Journalists has described Russia as “one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists,” with 36 journalists killed since 1992. Syria and France have been named the deadliest countries where journalists were found murdered with confirmed motives in 2015, according to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Donald Trump wants to be able to take legal action against those he thinks are unkind in their reporting. Trump revealed his utter disdain for the First Amendment’s freedom of the press, proclaiming that he’s “gonna open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. I think the media is among the most dishonest groups of people I’ve ever met. They’re terrible. With me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people…We’re gonna open up those libel laws, folks, and we’re gonna have people sue you like you never get [sic] sued before.” Actually, the United States Constitution says you are exactly like other people, because under the Constitution, we are all equal before the law. There is no Donald Trump Exception clause anywhere to be found. Even the Founding Fathers had to take their lumps from their critics. “I feel very strongly about our constitution. I’m proud of it. I love it.” He loves it enough to say it doesn’t apply to him. No president can simply pick and choose the parts of the Constitution he wants to honour and discard the rest.  Can you imagine if President Obama had ever uttered such a statement?

george_willPulitzer Prize-winning George Will is a columnist for The Washington Post, with whom I rarely agree, yet I have more respect for him than for most any other columnist today.  Will is politically conservative, while I am moderate-liberal, but he is respectful, intellectual and above all fair.  He is an “equal opportunity” pundit who criticizes whichever side deserves it.  And this campaign season, he has taken issue with none other than Trumpty=Dumpty!  I knew I liked George!  According to Will, Trump’s rhetoric about limiting freedom of the press will be comparable to a re-enactment of the Sedition Act of 1798. The act made it a crime to “write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people.”

Are we actually willing to give up our right to “read all about it” in our morning newspapernewspaper, or to see the online news sources reigned in such that they cannot report on the actions of the Trump administration?  And what about us?  Those of us who write blogs, who write op-ed pieces for newspapers would also be silenced. The reality, of course, is that even if Trump were to somehow win the election and become president, he could not change the 1st amendment easily, I suspect not at all.  But the very fact that he wants to, that he is willing to trash what is arguably the most important right we are granted by the Bill of Rights, is troublesome, to say the very least.

I am an optimist and still do not believe that Donald ‘Trumpty-Dumpty’ Trump will ever become president of the United States.  That said, if he does, I hope that I am able to share a cell with George Will.  I think we could have fun talking about issues and I would surely learn a lot from him!  See you soon, George! Smiley

Leave the Children ALONE!

Politics is messy. It is dirty. It is brutal. Those who choose to run for office are fully aware of this and, with few exceptions, better be prepared to be called every name in the book, to be ridiculed, mocked, threatened, and maybe even have a tomato or two thrown at them. It is the American Way. If you cannot take the heat, then get out of the kitchen. I do not feel sorry for any of the candidates running for president in next year’s election. All have taken their fair share of criticism and much of it was well-deserved on both sides of the aisle. BUT …. the candidate’s families, and especially their children should not be forced to pay the price. Leave the children out of it!!!

The most recent breach of this unwritten rule was a cartoon in very poor taste in the Washington Post on Tuesday, December 22, 2015, depicting Senator Ted Cruz’ two daughters, ages 7 and 9 as trained monkeys on leashes. Shame on the Washington Post! Criticize Trump’s bad toupee, Christie’s weight, Hillary’s need for a bathroom break if you must, though I find this juvenile chatter to be pointless,  but do not touch on their children! It is very difficult for the children of a politician to have a “normal” childhood as it is. They should never be put into the spotlight by the media … it is in extremely poor taste and further, it may even place the children in danger from some lunatic in possession of one of the 310,000,000 civilian-owned guns who happens not to like Cruz and decides to take matters into his own hands.

That said, it was in equally poor taste on the part of Sen. Cruz to exploit his daughters in an equally poor taste political advertisement, which was cartoonist Ann Telnaes’ poor excuse for her cartoon. Shame on Senator Cruz!  Mr. Cruz must, indeed, bear some of the blame, however Ms. Telnaes, as a member of the press, and her editors at the Washington Post, must bear the lion’s share. Simply put, two wrongs do not make a right. Senator Cruz needs to be taken to task by the leadership of the GOP as well as by his wife. Were I his wife, he would absolutely never have been allowed to exploit his children, exposing them to ridicule and to danger, but thankfully I am not his wife.

Ultimately the Washington Post did the right thing and took down the cartoon. I hope that Ms. Telnaes will be disciplined for her poor judgement and that the Cruz family will receive a written apology. Through the years, the Post has been one of about 5-6 news sources that I scour daily, and I have always found them to be fair and to exercise reasonably sound judgement. This fiasco was reminiscent of something I would expect from Fox or one of the other less reputable news sources. Admittedly, this has been a very heated campaign year and many of the rules seem to have gone out the window. I don’t necessarily like it nor approve of it, but I understand it, and I save my commentary on that issue for another day, another post. I draw the line, however at involving the candidate’s children. Period. There is no excuse, there are no “if’s”, “ands” or “buts”. The kids are off-limits and the media need to recognize and adhere to this, even when the candidates themselves have not the good sense to do so. Let us hope that the Post has learned a lesson, that the candidates have learned a lesson, and that any other media outlet tempted to follow suit will heed the same lesson.

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself …

Today’s news is that everybody is in fear of a terrorist organization called ISIS, ISIL or daesh.  Well fear not, my friends, because I am here to relieve your fears!  In the words of the late, great President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “ … the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself … “

For starters, let us look at the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Heart disease: 611,105
  • Cancer: 584,881
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767
  • Diabetes: 75,578
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149

Now look closely … do you see terrorist attacks or terrorism anywhere on that list?  No, you do not.  In fact, the odds of a U.S. citizen dying in a terrorist attack are approximately 1 in 20 million, and that includes citizens travelling abroad, where terrorist attacks are more likely than on U.S. soil. A minimum of three items on this list, however, can be caused by lying awake worrying at night, thus fear itself can cause death.  Even obesity is 23,528 times more likely to kill you than terrorism.  And I am not even going into my usual spiel about gun-related deaths due to “good citizens” carrying guns around everywhere they go.  Okay, now that we’ve put that to rest, you can stop buying into the rhetoric of the media, politicians and presidential wanna-be’s who would like you to believe that terrorism by radical Islamists tops the list of things that should keep you awake at night.

As I grow older I find that I am less fearful of anything.  It’s interesting to note, though I am not a psychologist and am stating opinion based solely on my own experience, but I think that we are at our most fearful when we are raising our children, and we see potential danger lurking around every corner.  Then, as we start to age, to move toward the inevitable end of our lives, we become less fearful of death itself, and more fearful of living our last years dependent on others or in some vegetative state.  As I said, I fear very little these days, and dying in a terrorist attack isn’t even on the list.  I made two Christmas shopping trips to local malls last week with my family and I can tell you that my biggest fear today is driving to the mall!  I remember now why I do 95% of my Christmas shopping on Amazon!  On the first excursion, I was nearly smashed into by a driver whose mind was apparently on her ongoing cell phone conversation and another who thought he/she was the only driver on the highway and that all 5 lanes were his/hers to meander in and out of as the urge hit. On the second trip we passed two major accidents in the 15 miles or so between home and mall!  And don’t even ask me about mall parking lots during the Christmas season!  I will take my chances with ISIS over a crowded mall parking lot any day!

Fear is a money-making commodity for the media and politicians.  When something like the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, or Paris, France happens, the media jump on it, because it is stories like those that are the bread and butter of their existence.  Politicians jump on it because it legitimizes all the taxpayer dollars they spend annually on counter-terrorism measures and the infringements on personal freedoms that we have seen in the years since 9/11.  The wanna-be’s, jump on it because they can talk tough and sound as if they and they alone would provide the solution to the problem, and that if you don’t vote for them, your odds of surviving ISIS are slim-to-none.  Arm yourself with facts rather than believing the rhetoric.  I have taken, as a part of my post-grad studies, three courses on terrorism and counter-terrorism.  Each presented a slightly different perspective, but for the most part, all three supported the same ideology that terrorism in the west is a very small threat.  If you are interested in checking facts and figures, here is a link to the searchable Global Terrorism Database published by START (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism).  It is very user-friendly, informative, and as you will see, provides factual support that terrorism is primarily NOT a large threat to the U.S.

Now that you know you are not going to die from a terrorist attack tomorrow, you can sleep peacefully tonight, dream of sugar plums (whatever the heck those are) and wake up perky tomorrow!  Just stay away from the mall!!!

Shameful Inhumanity

In the news the past few days:

• Fire at California Mosque was Intentionally Set in Possible Hate Crime (NBC News 12-11-2015)
• Two Muslim Women Attacked in Tampa (The Express Tribune 12-12-2015)
• Pig’s Head Left at Philadelphia Mosque (CNN 12-09-2015)
• Armed “Patriots” Turn Protests Toward Muslim Americans (Associated Press 12-11-2015)
• The Alabama KKK is Recruiting to “Fight the Spread of Islam” (International Business Times 12-05-2015)
• Passenger Rants About Islamic State Before Shooting Muslim Taxi Driver in Back (The Washington Post 11-30-2015)
• Muslim Student Upset After Gwinnett Teacher Asks If She Has A Bomb (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12-11-2015)

The list goes on, but you get the picture. This, my friends, is the environment that the rhetoric by the political right wing and the media has created. I hang my head in shame at being a part of the human race tonight.

I have always thought the First Amendment guaranteeing the right to freedom of speech, freedom of press was a good idea … a great idea, even. Now? I’m not so sure. I am coming to view this “right” in much the same way I view the 2nd Amendment “right” to bear arms … it is a right that is so often abused that perhaps it should no longer be a right. I think the framers of the Constitution were operating under the false assumption that citizens of the U.S. would use their rights to make this a better nation, to promote the idea that “all men are created equal”, to lead us to “truth and justice” and would exercise at least a modicum of humanity and common sense. But alas, that was some 225 years ago and much has changed since then. My fear is that the sampling of incidents listed above is merely the beginning of what may become a horrible trend in this nation during the coming year. I blame the gaggle of presidential wanna-be’s certainly, but primarily Donald Trump who has put forth one and only one policy platform, and that is one based on extreme bigotry toward Mexicans and Muslims. Even more, I blame the media for the feeding frenzy. Journalists have a job to do, which is to keep the public informed of the things they need to know. That does not mean that their job is to stir and incite hatred by producing 24-hour news showing a single candidate over and over and over again screaming about how we must hate people based solely on their religion. And even more than the “mainstream” media, I blame the “social media”. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have done nothing but magnify the rhetoric far out of proportion, magnify the lies put forth by the politicians, and incite some to extreme violence.

Yet there is still more blame to go around. Does anybody reading this (if anybody is) actually think that committing hate crimes against our Muslim community is okay? Probably not, as most of my followers are pretty reasonable people, but if anybody reading this thinks this hatred is okay … please let me know how you justify that … I am really curious. The bulk of the blame, my friends, is on us. The politicians can rant, and the press can and does exercise poor judgement along with their 1st Amendment rights, but if we use our own minds and let our consciences guide us, we will understand that this is not the right thing to do. There is not a single word in the U.S. Constitution that gives us a right to attack anyone based on their religion. There is no law on the books that gives us the right to set fire to a religious building or to shoot an innocent citizen. Does anybody remember the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963? Is this any different? Did we, as a nation, learn absolutely nothing in the past 50+ years? Many of the regular followers of this blog reside on the other side of the globe, and they are always amazed at how violent the U.S. has become, how lax our policies on increasingly-lethal weapons, and how we turn a blind eye to it all. The real problem, as I see it, is that we no longer take the time and effort to read, to dig for facts, and then to use our own brains to think for ourselves. Apparently it is much easier to troll social media sites for memes that put forth the opinions of others, then take those opinions as our own. Apparently rather than dust the cobwebs off of our own brains, we prefer to be followers, always believing what somebody else tells us we ought to believe. So yes, there is plenty of blame to go around, but ultimately the buck stops here … on my shoulders and on yours.

Thoughts on relevancy …

There are a number of things that people ought to be concerned about on this planet, in this century. Among them are:

• The environment
• World hunger
• Terrorism (global and home-grown)
• Bigotry and discrimination
• Sustainable energy sources
• Decline in educational levels in U.S.
• Human Rights violations worldwide
• Violence and persecution in the Middle East
• Russia’s apparent intent to establish a soviet-style empire
• Gun regulation and violent crime

Note that this is my own list, roughly prioritized by my own philosophies, and everybody will have a slightly different idea of what is or isn’t important. I get that and it doesn’t bother me in the least. Obviously there are many, many more issues of importance, but I limited my list to my top ten, in hopes of finishing this article sometime today. I should also add that the health, well-being and happiness of my friends and family are high on my priority list, but I did not include them in the above list, as that is a personal priority, not a public one.

That said, let me put forth another list, this time of things that people ought NOT to be concerned about:
• Caitlyn Jenner
• Anything Kardashian
• Anything Duggar
• The amount of air in a football
• Any sports persona
• What people wear to shop at Wal-Mart
• George Clooney
• Lindsay Lohan/Miley Cyrus

Are you getting the picture? People are only relevant in my world if either a) I know them personally, or b) they are world leaders or in a position to make changes (positive or negative) in the world. By this definition, a political candidate may be considered relevant, but not his/her personal life. I do not care if he/she had an affair or smoked pot in college … it is not my business, will not affect my judgement of him/her, and I will not waste my precious time reading about it. If I read and study about just the ten issues in the first list, then I certainly don’t have time to care about any of the things in the second list. So why is it that both mainstream and social media seem to be flooding the airwaves with the “B-list” stories? Is this what we, as a society, have been reduced to? Do we not have enough to do in our own lives that we need to concern ourselves with the day-to-day trivia in the life of a total stranger?
My own criteria for determining relevancy is whether, ten years from now, it will likely still matter. Think about that and re-read the lists. I would stake my life-savings on the fact that every single item in the first list will continue being an issue in ten years and will be in history books 100 years from now. I will also bet that any name on list two will be long-forgotten, replaced by yet some other shallow sports/entertainment “celebrity” of the next decade. According to the Washington Post, there are now more than 300 “reality” shows on television. Seriously??? Television producers only produce shows that make money through advertising, and advertisers only support shows that people watch, so this means that the bulk of people are actually spending their valuable time watching other people live their lives instead of living their own lives. I find this a sad statement about our society. Does anybody else?

Thoughts on Baltimore …

I tried to avoid it … I really did try … but alas, I find that I must weigh in on the situation in Baltimore, if only to silence those who believe that it is a simple black-and-white issue with simple good vs. bad components and an equally simple solution. The few facts that are known are as follows:

• On April 19th, Freddie Gray, an African-American male, age 25, was walking on a Baltimore street when a police officer made eye contact, which prompted Mr. Gray to run, though he was not wanted for any crime at that time.
• The officer gave chase and arrested Mr. Gray who did not resist arrest.
• Mr. Gray’s leg was apparently injured, though it is not known how this happened.
• Mr. Gray was put in a police van for transport to the police station.
• On arrival at the police station, Mr. Gray had mysteriously acquired three fractured vertebrae and a crushed voice box. The police van had made at least two stops between the site of the arrest and the police station, but it is unknown (or unreported) what transpired during those stops.
• Freddie Gray died later that day of severe spinal cord injuries.
• The six police officers involved have been placed on suspension with pay.

More than a week later, still no information regarding the events during that fateful van ride have been forthcoming and no real action has been taken against the officers (sorry, but suspension with pay does not, in my book, qualify as a punitive action but seems more like a paid vacation … a reward, in fact). Understandably, the community wants answers to the question “what happened and why?”. Both the mayor of Baltimore and the Department of Justice are “investigating”, but no real information has been forthcoming. The frustration of yet another African-American victim of police brutality coupled with a lack of credible information has led to frustration among Baltimore’s citizens, which ultimately has led to protests, a few of which have become very violent and resulted in property damage and injuries to police officers. Those are the facts. Now for my take …

Let me be very clear at the onset that I DO NOT CONDONE RIOTING AND VIOLENCE. Based on past experience, I’m sure that some will still conclude that I am siding with the rioters. So be it. That said, while I do not condone the violent response, I understand it. John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Imagine that you are dining with a group of friends, everyone is talking and having a good time, when you suddenly inhale a piece of food and can neither breathe nor speak. You wave your arms, trying to get somebody to notice your dilemma, but nobody seems to notice. Eventually, as you are turning blue, you are probably going to smack the nearest person or throw a plate against a wall in order to be noticed, yes? The citizens of Baltimore are choking on this and need someone to notice, to provide answers, to show that it is, indeed, being taken very seriously, but they are being ignored. So, they are lashing out. This case in and of itself is horrific, but in light of the current spate of cases involving police brutality and use of unnecessary force against African-Americans, it makes for one of the most volatile environments imaginable. Even so, most of the protests in Baltimore over the past week have been peaceful in nature. Rioting, looting and violence are not the order of the day except in a very few areas. Just as with other recent crises that led to outbreaks of violence (Hurricane Katrina, Ferguson, Mo., etc.) those who are guilty of this type of violence are most often undereducated, unsupervised youths using the situation and associated protest movements as an excuse. Still, there needs to be some serious discussion between the citizens, city leaders and the law enforcement community, else the problems will ultimately lead to more serious and lasting discord. This situation is not going to just go away and the scars cannot begin to heal until a few things happen:
1. A full investigation is performed, the questions answered and made available to the citizens
2. Harsh punishment is applied against any and all officers involved in the brutality
3. An apology is issued to the family of Freddie Gray and to the community
4. A realistic plan is put forth and implemented to ensure that this can never happen again in Baltimore

There is yet one other aspect that needs to be addressed on a national level, and that is the role of the media. The media really should step up and take at least partial responsibility for the escalation of violence, not only in Baltimore but also in Ferguson, Mo., as well as numerous other hot spots in the nation over the past decade. As noted above, many more people were involved in peaceful protests in Baltimore than in violent ones. Did you know that? Probably not, since the media choose to highlight only the most violent situations. A little personal story here … when I was a teenager, I happened to be in a city that was hit by a hurricane. Damage was minimal for the most part, with only a very few homes or businesses destroyed, however electricity and telephone service were interrupted for several days (this was before the day of cell phones or the internet) . My grandmother, who lived in Chicago, was nearly worried into an early grave until telephone service was restored and she learned that we were all well and fine. The media, as it turned out, had found the 5 or 6 buildings that had been destroyed and reported continuously that there was “mass destruction and devastation”. It was a bald-faced lie, but I guess that reporting that 99% of the area that received only minimal damage wouldn’t have gotten nearly as many viewers, thus larger ratings, thus more advertising dollars flowing into the coffers. The same is the case in Baltimore today … the press is not interested in the people who are engaged in peaceful protest. You are familiar with the expression “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”? Just as in so many other situations, such as terrorism, to name just one, the result of the slanted media coverage is that is serves as an enticement to those who are seeking their “15 minutes of fame”.

So then, is there a solution to not only this case, but preventing similar situations in the future? I do not think there is a single panacea, but a multi-faceted set of changes in how city officials, law enforcement and the press operate, and equally important, in the response of citizens of the nation, not just of a single city. Two comments I have heard repeatedly that I find particularly galling and obnoxious are: “he deserved what he got … he shouldn’t have been running from the law”, and “Obama needs to talk to his people and calm them down”. Seriously??? So, running from the law is punishable by death now? No trial, no jury, no judge, just … death. I believe it was Cicero who first coined the phrase “let the punishment be equal with the offence”, or as paraphrased by W.S. Gilbert, “let the punishment fit the crime”. And President Obama needs to speak to “his” people? This sounds like a remark that might have been made in Alabama or Mississippi in 1950! Try “we need to help our people”. We are all in this together, people! Communication, open and honest, will be of more value than anything else I can think of. We are hovering dangerously close to a return to the racism and vigilantism that defined the 1950’s and 1960’s in this nation and I think we must all be willing to do our part to prevent that. Too many hateful and hurtful remarks have been bandied about on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites with no intelligent thought behind them. Too many falsehoods and half-truths are being reported both on mainstream and social media, and those who have neither the inclination nor intelligence to dig deeper believe only what they see or hear at any given moment, adding to the unrest and potentially adding fuel to the fire. If there is a solution it will require intelligence coupled with a more compassionate and tolerant culture than we seem to have now.

While I welcome comments and would very much like to hear the opinions of others on this issue, please note that I will not tolerate any comment that is racist in nature.