Misplaced Priorities

The effects of climate change are predicted to bring us our hottest summer ever and one with even more hurricanes, tornadoes, and extreme wildfires than past years. We are told that we should expect rolling electricity ‘blackouts’ this summer as power companies try to protect the electric grid from damage due to overuse.  We have become a nation known for its mass shootings, known for people who carry a gun into churches, schools, and grocery stores just looking for trouble – we are not safe shopping for food, and our children are no longer safe in school.  There is a war in Ukraine (just in case you’ve forgotten) that is likely to expand into other nations and may well ultimately involve the U.S.  Our voting rights are being stripped, states are passing ridiculous laws to deny women of their rights and children of the right to learn those things they need to know. Far too many people cannot afford adequate, let alone quality healthcare, and the quality of healthcare for the average person is poor, to say the least.  Women’s rights, voting rights, civil rights, are being rolled back by the Courts at an alarming rate.  Racism and homophobia are on the rise, with violent episodes of each happening around the nation.  And yet … what are the people of the United States concerned most about?  Inflation. Yep, the rising costs of fuel and groceries are hitting their pocketbooks directly, so those somehow matter more than protecting the planet or saving people’s lives.  Somebody find me a tiny violin, please. 🎻

Mind you, I do realize that inflation is a problem, more for the poor than for the rest of us.  But it is not a problem that is unique to the U.S. … it is global!!!  Every nation on earth is suffering to a greater or lesser extent for numerous reasons, not the least of which is disrupted supply chains due to Putin’s war against Ukraine!  And the people doing the most complaining are those who, while it may be annoying and inconvenient, CAN still afford to put enough fuel in their cars to get where they need … yes, I said need … to go and CAN still afford enough food to feed their families!  They are more worried about whether they can take a cross-country vacation than whether their own children are safe in school and whether their grandchildren will have air to breathe!!!

These people need to get over themselves, to learn to be a bit more frugal, combine errands to use less fuel, turn the damn a/c off at night, eat chicken or fish instead of beef … better yet, what better time to go vegan?  Life in any nation is going to have its ups and downs … we have far more pressing and critical problems in this country than the price of a gallon of gasoline or the price of grapes.  If we don’t wake up and wake our legislators to the effects of climate change, it will soon be too late.  Oh, speaking of which … a headline in the New York Times caught my eye yesterday …

How an Organized Republican Effort Punishes Companies for Climate Action

A few snippets from the article

  • Across the country, Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a campaign to try to rein in what they see as activist companies trying to reduce the greenhouse gases that are dangerously heating the planet.
  • In Texas, a new law bars the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels. Conservative lawmakers in 15 other states are promoting similar legislation.
  • The pushback has been spearheaded by a group of Republican state officials that has reached out to financial organizations, facilitated media appearances and threatened to punish companies that, among other things, divest from fossil fuels.
  • And last week, the global head of responsible investments for HSBC Asset Management, Stuart Kirk, made a provocative presentation titled “Why investors need not worry about climate risk” at a Financial Times event in London. Describing climate risk as a problem in the far-off future, Mr. Kirk said, “Climate change is not a financial risk that we need to worry about,” adding, “Who cares if Miami is six meters underwater in 100 years?”

If you needed further proof that people live for today and to hell with tomorrow, there it is!  I think we need to be far more worried about global climate change that is a lasting problem, not one that will be solved in our lifetimes, perhaps never if we don’t get busy, than about temporary inflation.  Yes, rising prices are a concern, but not nearly as much so as children being shot and killed in schools, the planet heading toward disaster for all life forms, a war that could yet turn into World War III, and so much more.  Priorities, my friends … priorities.

America’s Wake-Up Call — How The World Sees Us

Donald Trump says he has accomplished more in just under four years than any other president in history.  Quite a statement, isn’t it?  Most people, on hearing his boast, rolled their eyes and muttered, “Yeah, right.”  But in one sense, he is right.  He has accomplished more to destroy our alliances and our image in the rest of the world than any other president to date.

According to a recent PEW Research survey, Donald Trump is less trusted than the leaders of Germany, France, UK, and even Russia & China.

PEW-1

In Western Europe, here is how the current administration ranks compared to the past two …

PEW-2

And I could go on with further studies and charts, but you get the picture … Donald Trump, and by extension the United States, is less trusted today than it was four years ago.  The important thing, I think, is to understand two things:  Why this is the case, and why it matters.

Of course it goes without saying that Trump’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic is a large part of the reason our allies … or those who once were allies … have lost confidence in our ‘leadership’, but that isn’t the only area in which there are concerns.

We let our allies down in a major way by pulling out of both the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran nuclear deal … on the latter, we left them scrambling trying to salvage a deal that could very well save the world from a nuclear war.  Just yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on Trump’s orders, announced that we are imposing new sanctions on Iran’s financial sector in defiance of European allies who warned that the move could have devastating humanitarian consequences on a country reeling from the novel coronavirus and a currency crisis.  The sanctions will have a significant impact on Iran’s ability to import food, medicine, and other humanitarian needs.

Our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords was simply unconscionable, but to add insult to injury, Trump reversed nearly every single regulation that had been put into place by the Obama administration to attempt to reverse the damage to the environment.  It’s important for us to realize that this not only affects the air we breathe and the quality of our water, but that of every country on the globe!  The United States is the single biggest per capita emitter of CO2 on the globe, and yet we are doing the least of any industrialized nation to attempt to stop the destruction of the planet.  Is it any wonder we are not trusted?

In recent months, the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of police has led to massive protests both in the U.S. and around the world.  Yet, the ‘leader’ of our country, rather than using this as an opportunity to improve race relations, to provide training to law enforcement, to meet with Black leaders and work toward peaceful solutions, has taken a negative approach to the mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter protests.  He has refused on more than one occasion to denounce white supremacist groups, and as recently as last week, publicly told one of the most volatile white supremacist groups, the Proud Boys, to “stand down and stand by”, as if their gun-toting presence might be required.

When Trump sent troops to Portland, Oregon, to wantonly arrest citizens … those who were engaged in peaceful protests, those who were suspected of violence, as well as citizens simply going about their business … it did not sit well with the people of the U.S., but it also sent shock waves through the rest of the world.  According to Ana María Careaga, an Argentinian psychologist who suffered through the military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla in the 1970s …

“What’s happening is very dangerous in a way similar to the dictatorships we had to endure in South America. Trump is shielding himself behind religious symbols while trying to seduce people to vote for him in the name of freedom, when it is precisely their freedom that leaders like him plan to abolish.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  For years, part of the daily work of the US state department was to issue denunciations of police brutality, suppression of dissent, and instability in far-flung corners of the globe.  And now, under Donald Trump, we have become the ones we once fought against.  As one journalist in Beijing wrote …

“Trump is tearing apart America. He doesn’t need to send the troops. This will hurt the US’s international image. All of this is about the fight for justice, rights and equality. Whether it is Hong Kong or the US, people need to differentiate between violence and the fight for justice.”

So, even before the pandemic, other countries had reason to lose confidence in the leadership of Donald Trump, and thus in the nation.  Countries that were once staunch allies no longer trust us, and there is a very real danger in that.  From an article in Foreign Affairs magazine titled “The United States Is Not Entitled to Lead the World” …

The self-proclaimed “greatest democracy in the world” has been an erratic one since the late 1990s: in just more than two decades, the country has seen two presidents impeached, an election ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, an internationally controversial war in Iraq, and a financial crisis that sent shock waves around the world. In 2008, the country elected a globally popular Black senator to the presidency—only to lurch in a very different direction eight years later by electing a racist reality TV host who blames American allies for the country’s ills.

Which brings us to the abominable response to the pandemic by Donald Trump.  You all know the story, how he not only downplayed the virus, but outright lied to us, encouraged us to expose ourselves, discouraged the precautions the medical community was urging, and even suggested that we drink bleach or household disinfectants.  Even today, he is minimizing the risk.  As a result, the U.S. has, as of this writing, 7,845,739 cases and 217,972 deaths … the highest of any country on the globe, though we have just over 4% of the world’s population.

Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, a political scientist at Chile’s Diego Portales university and co-author of “Populism, a Very Short Introduction”, sees a Trump presidency in chilling terms …

“Trump is using the pandemic to position himself as a God-given saviour coming to avert an imminent catastrophe.  His re-election, should it happen, will be considered – not least by him – as a clear indication that the time is right to push on with his radical, populist rightwing agenda. If that prediction is right, then Covid-19 will come to be seen as not just the bringer of death and recession in the US, but also as the forerunner that paved the way for the destruction of US democracy.”

The second part of the question is one that I have heard expressed in a number of different ways:  Why does it matter what the rest of the world thinks?

I literally cringe every time I hear this, no matter how it is phrased.  A few days ago someone said to me, “You know what?  I don’t give a sh*t what the rest of the world thinks … I live here.”

Donald Trump ran in 2016 on an “America First” platform, saying that the rest of the world was taking advantage of the U.S. (they weren’t) and that from now on he would only engage in international relationships where he was the “winner”.  Well, guess what, folks … there are no winners, but there are potentially a hell of a lot of losers, including the United States, once considered a leader of the free world.

You hear a lot of people condemning globalization, but folks … it’s a fact of life.  And we created it with technology.  Airplanes that can take us across the globe in just a few hours, computers and the Internet that give us instant access to what is happening around the world … the world has shrunk in this sense and it is a fool’s errand to attempt to separate one nation from all the rest.  I have often compared our role in the greater world as that of a homeowner in a neighborhood.  If you treat your neighbors crappy, don’t expect them to rush to your defense if you fall in your yard, your house catches fire, or some other disaster befalls you.

Take, for example, trade.  We cannot possibly produce every single thing we need or want, so we rely heavily on imports from other nations, just as they rely on goods produced here in the U.S.  Trade deals should be fair and equitable to all parties, but Trump is determined that such deals will benefit the U.S. more than the other nations involved.  He makes no pretense of being fair.  He has pulled out of the World Health Organization (WHO) during this time of a deadly pandemic, drastically reducing the funding for an organization whose scientists are working hard to find ways to stop transmission and prevent the spread of the coronavirus in order to save lives.  Instead, Trump taunts and ridiculously name calls, referring to the coronavirus as the ‘China virus’ and claiming that he will “make China pay”.

A good neighbor helps his neighbors … helps rake leaves, shovel snow, takes in the mail when the neighbor is out of town.  We have not been a good neighbor to our allies, though Trump panders to our adversaries.  He refuses to hold Vladimir Putin responsible for interfering in both our 2016 election and our current year election, refuses to hold him responsible for the bounties put on the heads of our soldiers in Afghanistan.  He refuses to hold Mohammed bin Salman responsible for ordering the brutal slaying of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi … and yet, he constantly criticizes our allies, particularly Angela Merkel, one of the most respected leaders of Western Europe.

Do you remember September 11, 2001?  Of course you do, but do you remember how our neighbor to the north, Canada, came to our aid that day?  Our airspace was closed, but Canadian Forces provided support for stranded aircrew and passengers from diverted commercial flights.  Canadian citizens opened their homes to stranded passengers, providing food and shelter.  They didn’t have to do that, but they did.  Today, only 35% of Canadians view the U.S. positively.  There comes a time when we all need help.  If Russia or Saudi Arabia, Iran or North Korea were to attack the United States, who would come to our aid?  Think long and hard about that one, folks, for we have not been a good friend for the past four years.  Take a look at the second chart at the beginning of this post.  President Barack Obama was respected and trusted, and as a result our nation was safer.  Today, we are less safe than we were four years ago, contrary to what the team of Trump/Pence claim.  We are persona non grata in many nations, largely for our ineptitude in dealing with the pandemic.  Another four years and we will have no allies, no friends to count on, only an autocratic ruler with little or no concern for any but himself.

The way in which the world views us is important, and right now other industrialized nations do not look upon us as a trusted friend and ally.  We need to restore that trust, but Donald Trump cannot … will not … do so, for in his mind it is always a win/lose proposition … there is no give-and-take, no compromise.  We ask that you think about this one long and hard … our lives may depend on it.

America’s Wake-Up Call – Voting & Voters – Part I

Early in our project, late January-early February, we did a three-part series about voters and voting.  Jeff and I thought it worth repeating now, just a few short weeks before the all-important election.  The U.S. does not have a good track record for voting … barely half of all eligible voters typically vote, even in presidential elections!  This year, it is too important for people to sit home or attempt to “make a statement” by either not voting or voting for a candidate who has no chance at winning, such as the ignoble Kanye West.  Long story short, we are reprising this three-part series with a few changes or additions, starting today and for each of the next two Wednesdays, in addition to our regular Friday posts.


In the 2016 elections, U.S. citizens stood to lose a lot.  As we now know, we stood to lose our voices and even our lives.  And yet, with so much riding on a single day, with our very futures and those of our children on the line, a huge number of Americans could not be bothered to take an hour out of their day to go vote.  In fact, according to a Pew Research Center analysis,  U.S. voter turnout was very low compared to other nations’ recent elections.  In Belgium, 87.2% of eligible voters actually voted, and in Mexico, 66%.  The U.S.?  55.7%.  Just over half of all those who could have voted, actually did.  Where were the rest of the people who might have been able to save us from the chaos our nation has become?  Let us take a look at some of the reasons excuses that are offered:

  • Too busy/conflicting schedule  17.5 %
  • Illness or disability  14.9 %
  • Not interested 13.4 %
  • Did not like candidates or campaign issues  12.9 %
  • Other  11.3 %
  • Out of town  8.8 %
  • Don’t know  7 %
  • Registration problems  6 %
  • Inconvenient polling place  2.7 %
  • Transportation problems  2.66 %
  • Forgot  2.6 %
  • Bad weather  0.2 %

Too busy.  Not interested.  FORGOT??? With all the non-stop news on every media outlet, both legitimate and social, for fully 18 months before the election, how the Sam Heck could anybody, let alone some 2.3 million people, simply forget???  We must surely qualify for the nation with the poorest memories in the world!

Nearly 90 million people who were eligible to vote in 2016 did not.  What might our nation look like today if those 89.7 million people had gotten off their butts and done what is known as their civic duty?  I, for one, might not have bags the size of Oklahoma under my eyes!  We might actually have a functional government in Washington.  We might have had less than half the 216,000+ deaths from the coronavirus pandemic.  Perhaps there would be heads of agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and the State Department who not only knew and understood their jobs, but were also willing to do them!  We might not be making threats to other nations that stir the angst of all and put the U.S. and its allies in danger.  We might be participating in working to establish peace, rather than to start a war.  And we might still have the respect, rather than the derision, of other nations. But no … people were too busy, didn’t want to get rained on, didn’t like the choices, or just weren’t interested.

There are, certainly, some who did have legitimate reasons for not voting.  If a person was in an auto accident, or had a sudden heart attack and found himself unexpectedly in the hospital on November 8th, that person is not to blame for the current mess.  I have a friend who lives with an oxygen tank and is confined to a wheelchair, yet she voted, so overall, I am not inclined to buy the excuse of ‘illness or disability’ except in certain circumstances.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  Especially given the fact that almost every state offers some combination of early voting, absentee voting, and mail-in ballots, so people who are too sick or otherwise incapacitated, were still able to cast a vote.

The 13.4% who said they were ‘not interested’ puzzle me.  How can one not be interested in who makes the decisions that affect all of our very lives?  Do these people pay taxes, get sick sometimes, send their children to school, have jobs?  Do they breathe???  I wonder how many of those who were not interested are even functional human beings?  I wonder if they will be interested when their son gets his draft notice to go serve in the Korean Peninsula?  Will they sit up and take notice when their kids are sent home from school because of a lack of funding?  Or when they suddenly cannot breathe the air?

Those who ‘did not like the candidates or the campaign issues’ (12.9%) are just as bad.  So what?  You do some research, you inform yourself of the issues, and you choose the one that is least obnoxious to you.  It’s called the ‘lesser of two evils’, and it has been the de-facto way of voting for decades, if not centuries.  No candidate will ever be perfect, and no candidate can appeal to everyone, for we are humans, not automatons.  But if you cannot even be bothered to give it some thought and make a choice, then you are simply too lazy.  That’s right … lazy!

The bottom line is this … with some exceptions that I will discuss in the next part, the 89.7 million people in this nation who were eligible to vote, but didn’t, must claim much of the responsibility for all the chaos and dangerous politics happening in our country today.  These people who did not vote are every bit as guilty as those who voted for Trump.  Those who voted for Trump made a mistake, but those who did not bother to even vote because they were too lazy or uncaring deserve the wrath and scorn of us all.Voting is a right, it is a privilege, and most importantly, it is a responsibility.  If you eschew this right, if you shirk your responsibility, we are all losers.  This nation will not remain a free nation if nobody cares enough to vote for the people who will keep it free.  It is my opinion that we are currently on the very brink of losing our status as a free nation, that our very Constitution is in danger of being shredded, and I lay the blame for that right at the feet of those who failed us all in November 2016.  Please, friends, let us not make the same mistake in 2020!

America’s Wake-Up Call — Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension – Part IV(a) – Voting & Voters

Part four of mine and Jeff’s project, Discord & Dissension, is going to cover three posts.  These posts are a series I did back in April 2018, titled “On Voters Not Voting”, and with just a few updates, are as relevant today as they were then.  The second (b) and third (c) parts will be presented over the next three days.


In the 2016 elections, U.S. citizens stood to lose a lot.  As we now know, we stood to lose our voices.  And yet, with so much riding on a single day, with our very futures and those of our children on the line, a huge number of Americans could not be bothered to take an hour out of their day to go vote.  In fact, according to a Pew Research Center analysis,  U.S. voter turnout was very low compared to other nations’ recent elections.  In Belgium, 87.2% of eligible voters actually voted, and in Mexico, 66%.  The U.S.?  55.7%.  Just over half of all those who could have voted, actually did.  Where were the rest of the people who might have been able to save us from the chaos our nation has become?  Let us take a look at some of the excuses reasons that are offered:

  • Too busy/conflicting schedule  17.5 %
  • Illness or disability  14.9 %
  • Not interested 13.4 %
  • Did not like candidates or campaign issues  12.9 %
  • Other  11.3 %
  • Out of town  8.8 %
  • Don’t know  7 %
  • Registration problems  6 %
  • Inconvenient polling place  2.7 %
  • Transportation problems  2.66 %
  • Forgot  2.6 %
  • Bad weather  0.2 %

Too busy.  Not interested.  FORGOT??? With all the non-stop news on every media outlet, both legitimate and social, for fully 18 months before the election, how the Sam Heck could anybody, let alone some 2.3 million people, simply forget???  We must surely qualify for the nation with the poorest memories in the world!

Nearly 90 million people who were eligible to vote in 2016 did not.  What might our nation look like today if those 89.7 million people had gotten off their butts and done what is known as their civic duty?  I, for one, might not have bags the size of Oklahoma under my eyes!  We might actually have a functional government in Washington.  Perhaps there would be heads of agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and the State Department who not only knew and understood their jobs, but were also willing to do them!  We might not be making threats to other nations that stir the angst of all and put the U.S. and its allies in danger.  We might be participating in working to establish peace, rather than to start a war.  And we might still have the respect, rather than the derision, of other nations. But no … people were too busy, didn’t want to get rained on, didn’t like the choices, or just weren’t interested.

There are, certainly, some who did have legitimate reasons for not voting.  If a person was in an auto accident, or had a sudden heart attack and found himself unexpectedly in the hospital on November 8th, that person is not to blame for the current mess.  I have a friend who lives with an oxygen tank and is confined to a wheelchair, yet she voted, so overall, I am not inclined to buy the excuse of ‘illness or disability’ except in certain circumstances.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  Especially given the fact that almost every state offers some combination of early voting, absentee voting, and mail-in ballots, so people who are too sick or otherwise incapacitated, were still able to cast a vote.

The 13.4% who said they were ‘not interested’ puzzle me.  How can one not be interested in who makes the decisions that affect all of our very lives?  Do these people pay taxes, get sick sometimes, send their children to school, have jobs?  Do they breathe???  I wonder how many of those who were not interested are even functional human beings?  I wonder if they will be interested when their son gets his draft notice to go serve in the Korean Peninsula?  Will they sit up and take notice when their kids are sent home from school because of a lack of funding?  Or when they suddenly cannot breathe the air?

Those who ‘did not like the candidates or the campaign issues’ (12.9%) are just as bad.  So what?  You do some research, you inform yourself of the issues, and you choose the one that is least obnoxious to you.  It’s called the ‘lesser of two evils’, and it has been the de-facto way of voting for decades, if not centuries.  No candidate will ever be perfect, and no candidate can appeal to everyone, for we are humans, not automatons.  But if you cannot even be bothered to give it some thought and make a choice, then you are simply too lazy.  That’s right … lazy!

The bottom line is this … with some exceptions that I will discuss in the next part, the 89.7 million people in this nation who were eligible to vote, but didn’t, must claim much of the responsibility for all the chaos and dangerous politics happening in our country today.  These people who did not vote are every bit as guilty as those who voted for Trump.  Those who voted for Trump made a mistake, but those who did not bother to even vote because they were too lazy or uncaring deserve the wrath and scorn of us all.Voting is a right, it is a privilege, and most importantly, it is a responsibility.  If you eschew this right, if you shirk your responsibility, we are all losers.  This nation will not remain a free nation if nobody cares enough to vote for the people who will keep it free.  It is my opinion that we are currently on the very brink of losing our status as a free nation, that our very Constitution is in danger of being shredded, and I lay the blame for that right at the feet of those who failed us all in November 2016.  Please, friends, let us not make the same mistake in 2020!

 

 

Sources of *Sigh*s

As most of you who have followed this blog for any length of time know, I am a lover of animals.  I have often said I prefer goats, bears, lions, snakes and spiders to most humans, especially these days.  So, you might imagine the low-throated growl that has been emitting from me ever since reading the following headline this morning …

U.S. Significantly Weakens Endangered Species Act

First, he destroys the camaraderie of the nation, turns brother against brother, mother against child, and friend against friend.  Then, he destroys the environment, not only of the nation, but of the entire planet, by reversing nearly every environmental protection regulation on the books and pulling the U.S. – against the will of the majority – out of the Paris Climate Accords.  And now … now he is destroying the beautiful wildlife, many species of which were here on earth long before humans were, and all of which are more worthy of life than humans!Bald Eagle.jpgThe story:

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is a key legislation for both domestic and international conservation. The act aims to provide a framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.  Under the current law, assessments about which species should be labeled as ‘endangered’ must be made solely based on science, without consideration for economic impacts.  But, if the new ruling is allowed to go into effect, regulators would be forced to conduct economic assessments — for instance, estimating lost revenue from a prohibition on logging in a critical habitat — when deciding whether a species warrants protection.

David Bernhardt

David Bernhardt (Why are all of Trump’s minions like him:  fat, old, white, male???)

The ruling appears to be in the interest of the fossil fuel and logging industries.  David Bernhardt, Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, is a former oil and gas lobbyist who has long been a critic of the Endangered Species Act, saying that it places an “unnecessary regulatory burden” on companies, such as coal, oil and gas companies.

Environmental groups, Democratic state attorneys general and Democrats in Congress denounced the changes and vowed to challenge them in Congress and in the courts.  But, as we have seen, both Congress and the courts have had very limited success in stopping the runaway train that is Donald Trump.Grizzly Bear.jpgMake no mistake … allowing thousands of species to become extinct will have a significant impact on this planet, as will allowing the fossil fuel industry to continue operating unregulated.  The human species is on the brink of bringing about its own extinction, and frankly, I’m not so sure that’s an altogether bad thing!  We are not trying to live in harmony with nature but are rather trying to dominate and destroy nature.

I have a terrific idea!  Since Trump is removing the protections for both the environment and wildlife, let’s also remove the protections for Trump … protections, I might add, that we the taxpayers pay with our hard-earned money!  No more Secret Service protection for Donnie!


And in other news … if you didn’t think that Donald Trump had brainwashed republicans before, this will surely convince you.  According to a recent study by Pew Research, while most Americans continue to say it would be too risky to give U.S. presidents more power, the share expressing this opinion has declined since last year. Most of the change has been among Republicans – especially conservative Republicans. The study found that …

Currently, 66% of the public says “it would be too risky to give U.S. presidents more power to deal directly with many of the country’s problems.” About three-in-ten adults (29%) offer the contrasting opinion that “problems could be dealt with more effectively if U.S. presidents didn’t have to worry so much about Congress or the courts.” In March 2018, 76% of the public said it would be too risky to give presidents more power.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (51%) now say it would be too risky to give presidents more power, down from 70% last year.

The share of Republicans who say presidents could operate more effectively if they did not have to worry so much about Congress and the courts has increased 16 percentage points since then, from 27% to 43%.

There was a reason the framers of the Constitution put in place three independent branches of the federal government, a system of “checks and balances”, to provide oversight.  Donald Trump has already largely trampled the Constitution in this area, for any time he cannot get his way through Congress or the courts, he simply writes an ‘executive order’, or circumvents the system altogether.  And now, we find that increasingly, republicans are fine with that.  At this point, I would say we are already experiencing an autocratic government, and teetering on the brink of a dictatorship.  This is no longer just a nightmare scenario, my friends, but a clear and present danger. So yes, be afraid … be very afraid.

A Bucketful … of Snarky Snippets

There is just so darn much to ruffle the feathers, rile the temper, send the ol’ blood pressure soaring these days … I started earlier today on a humour piece that I had an idea for, thought it would be a nice change of pace.  And then … I looked at the news.  Suddenly, my humour piece didn’t seem very funny, and instead it made me want to cry.  So, instead I am back to being my ol’ snarky self, and any humour will no doubt be acidic and acerbic.


Under investigation …

He sure does know how to pick the winners, doesn’t he?  That is, in this alternate universe where up is down, black is white, and winners are losers.  I did a series of posts after Trump took office about his choices for his cabinet, all of which were the antithesis of the “right person for the job”.  ‘Draining the swamp’ apparently meant adding more alligators. Consider, for example, his first choice to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, who had sued the EPA numerous times.  Or Betsy DeVos, his choice for Secretary of Education who was against public education!  One of his crew is in the news again today.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems to have a whole series of corrupt heads and staff.  I’ve long said that Trump’s goal was to dismantle the EPA, or at least render it powerless, and it seems to be the case.  The latest?  Bill Wehrum, who headed the EPA’s air policy division from November 2017 until he resigned under a shadow last month.WehrumWehrum, according to the New York Times …

“… worked for the better part of a decade to weaken air pollution rules by fighting the Environmental Protection Agency in court on behalf of chemical manufacturers, refineries, oil drillers and coal-burning power plants.”

Wehrum’s clients included Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Brick Industry Association, and the Utility Air Regulatory Group.  And then, he went to work for Donald Trump’s EPA where he pushed for rollback of environmental regulations and continued to interact with former clients. This, despite an ethics rule that prohibits former industry lawyers and lobbyists from meeting with former clients in private settings to discuss government-related matters.

During his 19 months at the EPA, he oversaw efforts to ease regulation of the coal industry, slow requirements that cars and trucks become more fuel efficient and overhaul how the agency calculates costs and benefits to favor industry.

In April, the House Energy and Commerce Committee launched an investigation into whether Wehrum had improperly aided his former industry clients since joining the administration.  Last month, Wehrum resigned, and today the EPA’s inspector general is looking at Wehrum’s interactions with his former law firm as well as several of its clients, who rank among the nation’s major emitters of greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

Yet another example, my friends, of Trump & Co. putting their own greed and that of their wealthy benefactors above the well being of this nation and its people.  My best guess is that this investigation will quietly fade away, that EPA head Andrew Wheeler will ensure it is all swept under the carpet, and that Wehrum will be replaced with an equally corrupt, noxious person.


Look what’s crawling out from under the rocks …

I’ve said it before and I say it again … when Donald Trump took the oath of office (which he has failed miserably at upholding) it was an invitation to all the slimy creatures to come crawling out from under the rocks where they had been hiding, lying in wait, biding their time.  Two examples …

A professor of law at University of Pennsylvania, Amy Wax, recently told a group of republicans last week that …

“Conservatives need a realistic approach to immigration that … preserves the United States as a Western and First World nation. We are better off if we are dominated numerically … by people from the First World, from the West, than by people who are from less advanced countries.”

Amy WaxWhat. A. Bitch.  She said her position is not racist because her problem with nonwhite immigrants is cultural, rather than racial.  Bullshit.  And … it isn’t only immigrants against whom she is prejudiced.  Last year, in an interview with a professor from Brown University, she said …

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely in the top half.”

And then this …

Charlie Rispoli is a 14-year veteran of the police department in Gretna, Louisiana who apparently shares Ms. Wax’ view of how the demographics of this nation should be.  Last Thursday, he posted to his Facebook page …Rispoli

Rispoli and another officer who “liked” the post were both fired, but only five days later, when the public backlash became loud, or as Chief of Police Arthur Lawson said, “a ripple in a pond that became a tidal wave.” The incident is haunting.  How many police officers are there out there who share Rispoli’s view?  We already know there are police officers who would shoot a black man quicker than a white one … what next?

Representative Ocasio-Cortez’ response was, I think, precisely correct …

“This is Trump’s goal when he uses targeted language & threatens elected officials who don’t agree w/ his political agenda. It’s authoritarian behavior. The president is sowing violence. He’s creating an environment where people can get hurt & he claims plausible deniability.”


Sickening

As I occasionally do in the mornings, I checked Trump’s approval rating yesterday morning.  Yes, I know polls are subject to many vagaries and variables, but I use the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of polls, and while I don’t put a lot of store in the actual percentages, I think the trend is a fair indicator of the pulse of the nation.

Imagine my reaction when I saw that his approval rating was at it’s highest point since March 2017, shortly after taking office.  🤢  WHY????  Last night, I found the answer …

Trump has been prolific in his hate speech the past week, spewing trash talk against four congresswomen of colour and not letting up … every morning, while he sits on the potty, his tiny thumbs work the buttons of his twitting machine, never tweeting anything new or original, just the same hatred over and over and over.  Most of us are sick of it, most of us don’t even bother to read it anymore.  But … according to a Pew Research study, a large portion of republicans claim his speech makes them feel excited, proud, happy, and hopeful.  If this doesn’t make you feel sick …

PEW-study.pngI would love to hear from some republicans in response to this.  C’mon, tell me how the hell racist speech makes you feel excited or proud!  Granted, these only represent some 72% – 79%, but folks … on average that is 3 out of 4 republicans!  What the Sam hell is wrong with these people???  The democrats, however, say his speech makes them feel exhausted, concerned, angry and insulted.  I am an independent, but these days I might as well be a democrat, for I cannot imagine ever again voting for a republican with those attitudes.  In fact, I think I will change my party affiliation this week!


And now that my blood pressure is sky high, my teeth are cracked from gritting them, I will leave you with a cartoon to brighten your morning.'toon.jpg

A Tale Of Two Mikes — Part II

World leaders, ministers, diplomats, military officers and policy experts gathered over the weekend for the annual Munich Security Conference, the premier global forum on foreign, defense and security policy.  Luckily, Donald Trump did not attend the conference … he was too busy at home playing golf, criticizing Saturday Night Live, and defending his indefensible declaration of emergency from the week before.  Also unfortunately, Mike Pence did attend, and therein lay the problem.Merkel-MunichAngela Merkel spoke before Pence, and resisted Pence’s earlier calls in Poland for the EU to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, which according to experts and analysts, is achieving its goals.  She also criticized the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria. “Is it a good thing to immediately remove American troops from Syria, or will it not strengthen Russia and Iran’s hand?”  At the end of her speech, she received a standing ovation.  Ivanka Trump, who was in the audience for some reason that is beyond my comprehension, refused to stand or even applaud.  The grade-school mentality must run in the family.Pence-MunichAnd then, Mike Pence began his speech by saying …

“I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.”

And he waited for the applause.  But the room remained silent.  Dead silent.  He waited.  Nobody clapped, apparently not even Ivanka.  See for yourself …

But Sarah Huckabee Sanders later found a way to put a spin on the humiliating moment:

“It was out of respect for our President that world leaders observed a moment of silence during Vice President Pence’s speech in Munich.”

I think not, Sarah, but nice try.  Now go rinse your mouth to get that nasty taste of the lie out of it.

But back to Pence’s speech.

“We came here to reaffirm our commitment that ‘America First’ does not mean America alone and tell leaders, allies and countries around the world that America is stronger than ever before and America’s leading on the world stage once again.”

The reality is that we ceded our leadership role early in Trump’s tenure.  We are not even good allies, let alone a good leader.  You cannot be isolationist and also a global leader, for to be all about “America First” means to put the rest of the globe somewhere below your own interests, and that is not how alliances and friendships work.

Pence credited Trump with spurring NATO allies to spend more on defense but insisted that they are still not spending enough. He also reiterated the ‘demand’ he made on Thursday in Poland regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

Silence.

As a long-time student of international relations, I cannot think of another time in the history of the United States that we have ‘demanded’ our allies act in accordance with our wishes.  This is being a bully, not an ally and certainly not a friend.

Pence ended his speech with a most inappropriate …

“God Bless the United States of America.”

As Amanda Sloat, a senior fellow at Brookings Institute said …

“It sounded more like he was speaking to a Trump rally than to transatlanticists in Europe.”

Pence’s speech was met with disdain by European officials who say they have no intention of abandoning the Iran nuclear deal and felt his aggressive tone would only stir up more opposition.  For the record, Pence’s speech ended with a smattering of light applause, but no standing ovation, other than Jared and Ivanka.  I ask again, why were they even there?

The Munich Security Conference report said the Trump administration displays an “irritating enthusiasm for strongmen across the globe” and “disdain for international institutions and agreements.”

Several hours after Merkel’s and Pence’s speeches, former Vice President Joe Biden was at the podium, and his message was a ray of light after that of Pence.

“The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world or our closest allies. The America I see cherishes a free press, democracy, the rule of law. It stands up to the aggression of dictators and against strongmen.”

And Biden ended with …

“As my mother would say: This too shall pass. We will be back. We will be back. Don’t have any doubt about that.”

The applause for Biden was significantly more enthusiastic than for Pence.

The Munich Security Report, which is downloadable in .pdf format,  is titled, The Great Puzzle:  Who Will Pick Up The Pieces?  That says it all, doesn’t it?  One of the key points in the report is about a previously unpublished opinion poll by the Pew Research Center showing that traditional allies of the United States perceive America’s power and influence as a major threat to their country, even when compared to China and Russia.

I may write more about the Munich Security Conference and the affiliated report once I finish reading the report, but for now, suffice it to say that the United States is not stepping up to the plate to work with our allies, but rather is becoming more isolationist, more self-serving, and there will be a price to pay for that.  Globalization is the reality, and no country can stand on its own without allies, without friends.  But in order to have a friend in times of trouble, one must first be a friend, and we are not.  As Joe Biden said, “This too shall pass” … but will it pass before the U.S. becomes a true pariah?

Two Jaw-Dropping Moments …

More than once I have said that it feels as if we are moving backward to a time of extreme bigotry and racism, to a time of segregated schools, a time of ‘whites only’ bathrooms and drinking fountains.  Two stories in yesterday’s news confirmed my worst fears.


A PEW research study was released yesterday that caused my jaw to drop.  The survey found that 34% of Americans … more than a third … think it is okay to wear blackface as a part of a costume all, or at least sometimes.  I am stunned at the ignorance, the utter crudity of these people!  Unthinking louts!  Morons!  The demographics are interesting … take a look …Pew-blackface-surveyNotice especially the differences between Republicans and Democrats — and the republicans wonder why the GOP has become known as the party of racists?  The survey was conducted January 22nd to February 5th, mostly before the revelation of Virginia Governor Northam in blackface in his med school yearbook.

The age breakdown is also interesting, for it seems that people ages 18-29 are least likely to say it’s okay.  But to me, the educational breakdown is perhaps the most relevant.  It seems that common sense, compassion, cultural awareness increase with higher levels of education.  Take a look …Pew-blackface-survey-2.pngI wonder, if this survey had been taken three years ago, when we had an African-American president, a man of conscience and compassion, and before the ‘man’ in the Oval Office gave off racist vibes, would the results have been the same?  For the record, it isn’t really a matter of opinion, but a matter of what’s right and what’s wrong.  Wearing blackface is a form of mockery, a form of denigration, and it is NEVER acceptable.  Period.  Not for a costume party, not for a small gathering of close friends, and not for a med school yearbook picture.  NEVER.Only one race


The second jaw dropper came with this headline …

West Virginia lawmaker compares LGBTQ community to the KKK

Say WHAT???  Ai ching … chihuahua!!!

In recent months, cities and municipalities in West Virginia have begun passing ordinances protecting the LGBT community from discrimination.  Enter West Virginia state Delegate Eric Porterfield, not surprisingly a republican, who argued in favour of a state-level bill that would make such local ordinances against state law.  The very notion that he is against equal rights for LGBT people is bad enough, but his rhetoric …

Eric-Porterfield“The LGBTQ is a modern-day version of the Ku Klux Klan, without wearing hoods with their antics of hate. The LGBT is the most socialist group in this country. They do not protect gays. There are many gays they persecute if they do not line up with their social ideology. I am terrified of these people. They represent a socialist activist agenda. They are opponents of freedom.”

‘Opponents of freedom’.  You, Mr. Porterfield, are a grade-A jackass!  Mr. Porterfield is blind, having lost the sight in both eyes as a result of an altercation in 2006.  Now, I just wonder how he would like it if somebody referred to blind people as being just like the KKK?

This is not his first time being a bully, as you might expect.  In 2016, he saw a Facebook post by his wife’s gynecologist arguing in support of a woman’s right to choose, right to abortion.  He told her in a Facebook message that, if she didn’t change to an anti-abortion position, he’d organize an economic boycott of her practice.

The situation escalated to the point of him filming a Facebook video calling for the boycott, and the doctor obtaining a protective service order from Magistrate Sandra Dorsey against Porterfield in court. Mercer County sheriff’s deputies then confiscated guns owned by Porterfield and his wife, Jessica.  (Wouldn’t you just know they owned guns?)

And then in 2018, a bill was up before the West Virginia Legislature to ban forced conversion therapy on minors.  The bill failed, but Porterfield was livid that the bill was even introduced, calling the bill bigoted and discriminatory.

This man is a prime example of what is wrong not only in our government, but in our society today.  If you don’t fit into the mold … the white, Christian, straight, and preferably male mold … then you are second-class and deserve whatever those ‘exemplary’ white citizens decide you deserve. lgbt flag


One cannot blame Donald Trump exclusively for creating the attitudes of hate and bigotry we are seeing in ever-increasing numbers today, but we can blame him for condoning the behaviours of hate groups, and thus making these vermin believe that it is ‘okay’ to be racist, to be homophobic, xenophobic and misogynistic.  Donald Trump said he would get rid of ‘political correctness’.  Being politically correct is nothing more nor less than being polite, being kind, treating others fairly.  And yet, those are things that we are losing in this nation.  We are losing them because the ‘man’ at the helm of this ship says that white and Christian and straight are superior to all else.  He is wrong.  He is dead wrong.

Voter Apathy — Part II

Earlier today, I wrote a piece about young people, millennials if you wish, and their reasons excuses for not voting in next week’s election.  I also noted that according to the article in New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, just over half of adults plan to vote.  I did a bit of research and found that the last time more than half of eligible voters actually turned out to vote in a mid-term election was 1914, just after the beginning of World War I!  According to the PEW Research Center …

The United States’ turnout in national elections lags behind other democratic countries with developed economies, ranking 26th out of 32 among peers in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Folks … this is pathetic!  Just under 56% of eligible voters in the U.S. cast ballots in the 2016 election! PEW chart

A number of the countries with the highest percentage of voter turnout have compulsory voting, which is a complex topic for another day, but something to think about.

According to an article in the New York Times …

Perhaps the most significant change has been in who votes. Unlike in the 19th century, voter turnout is now highly correlated with class. More than 80 percent of Americans with college degrees vote compared with about 40 percent of Americans without high school degrees, according to Jonathan Nagler, a political scientist at New York University and co-author of a 2014 book, “Who Votes Now.”

Last night, I read an interesting, fairly lengthy report by Center For American Progress  about ways in which we might be able to increase voter participation in the U.S.  It is well worth the read if you have time.  In short, the report lists some of the reasons for low voter turnout, and also some recommendations for encouraging voter participation by making the process simpler:

  • Streamline voter registration with automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration (SDR),11 preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds, and online voter registration
  • Make voting more convenient with in-person early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and vote-at-home with vote centers
  • Provide sufficient resources in elections and ensure voting is accessible
  • Restore rights for formerly incarcerated people
  • Strengthen civics education in schools
  • Invest in integrated voter engagement (IVE) and outreach

I agree, but it should be duly noted that all disenfranchisement laws and voter suppression tools are barriers that must be removed.

America’s representative government is warped by low voter participation, and, of those who do vote, the group is not representative of the broader population [emphasis added] of eligible American citizens. Research shows that communities of color, young people, and low-income Americans are disproportionately burdened by registration barriers, inflexible voting hours, and polling place closures, making it more difficult for these groups to vote. Participation gaps persist along racial, educational, and income-level differences.

VoterTurnout-fig1-693

Remember how hard African-Americans fought for the right to cast a ballot?  Remember poll taxes and tests?  In 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified, giving non-white men and freed male slaves the right to vote, but almost immediately the southern states began taking that right away via a series of Jim Crow laws.  It would be another 95 years until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave African-Americans the right to vote.  Blood was shed in the fight to earn this right.  Do the names James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and Medgar Evers ring any bells?  Each gave their lives in the fight for the vote. How do you imagine those who fought the good fight would feel if they heard somebody say, as Clara Bender of Madison, West Virginia, said …

“I just never got into it. I got married, had babies — just never had the time.”

And do you realize that it was less than 100 years ago – 1920, to be exact – that the 19th Amendment was finally ratified, giving women the right to vote?  There are women alive today who remember when women couldn’t vote.  What do you think Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would have to say to Megan Davis of Rhode Island, who says …

“I feel like my voice doesn’t matter. People who suck still are in office, so it doesn’t make a difference.”

Ay, pobrecita!!!

There is one and only one valid reason for a person age 18 or older not to vote, and that is that he or she has been disenfranchised in some way by state laws.  Gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID laws, shortened polling hours, lack of no-excuse absentee voting, polling places closed, voters given incorrect information, voters restricted by living in rural areas, and the list of tricks the states have up their sleeves is endless.  Anybody … ANYBODY who is not affected by disenfranchisement, else in a coma, has not only the right, but the DUTY to vote!  Sorry, folks, but it is one day every two years, and takes a matter of minutes.  Don’t like the country being ruled by the very filthy rich?  If you don’t vote, you caused it.  Don’t like the way your tax money is being spent?  If you didn’t vote, it’s your own damn fault. Those who fail to vote may very well be contributing to a future that none of us want.  vote-animated

Taking Religious “Liberty” Too Far …

There is a recent push for a thing called “religious liberty”.  We already have constitutionally-mandated freedom of religion in the United States.  As long as your religion does not involve human sacrifices or some such atrocity, you are free to believe as you will, attend the church of your choice – or not – and live your life in a manner consistent with your beliefs.  What you do not have, however, is the right to force your beliefs on others.  This is, in a nutshell, what the “religious liberty” movement seeks to do.

In October 2017, Ryan Coleman took a job as a painter at a construction company, Dahled Up Construction, in Albany, Oregon, about an hour south of Portland.  After being hired, Coleman was told that it was a job requirement to attend Christian bible study classes.  Mr. Coleman is half-Native American (Cherokee and Blackfoot) does not follow the Christian faith and had no desire to attend the classes, but the company’s owner, Joe Dahl, insisted that it was a requirement, not a request.

Coleman has children to feed, and unwilling to risk losing his job, attended the classes for a few months, but eventually became too uncomfortable with the ‘teachings’ to continue.  He decided to stop attending, and he informed Mr. Dahl that he had tried, but the classes went against his own personal beliefs.  Mr. Dahl’s response was, “Well, I’m going to have to replace you. You’re not going to tell me how to run my own company.”

Coleman responded with, “I’m not trying to tell you how to run your own company, but you’re not going to tell me what god to pray to.”  Coleman was fired in April 2018 for refusing to follow the company mandate to attend religious classes.

Mr. Coleman has filed a lawsuit, the details of which I won’t get into here, but Mr. Dahl’s lawyers’ response is interesting, for they claim the requirement is perfectly legal since the employees are on company time and therefore are being paid to attend.  That, in my book, is akin to saying that whatever an employee is asked to do while ‘on the clock’, is legal.  Hmmmm … it seems to me this has the potential to open some cans of worms.  So, if I order an employee to commit murder, as long as I’m paying him, it’s okay?  I think not.religious demographicsThe above chart by Pew Research Center shows global religious demographics.  Note that, while Christianity has the largest following worldwide, it is far from a majority.  Other religions, Islam, Hindu, Judaism, Buddhism and hundreds of lesser-known religions have equal legitimacy. Note, also, that a fairly substantial portion, 16.3%, choose to follow no religion.

The United States has laws against workplace discrimination.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.  What part of this, I wonder, did Mr. Dahl not understand?

I am all for freedom of religion – for all, not just one sect or another.  I support a person’s right to run his or her business in a manner that is profitable.  These two, however, need not be mutually exclusive.  Why on earth anybody would think it’s acceptable to dictate the religion of his employees is beyond my comprehension!  Not only that, but it is beyond the rule of law.

According to guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

“An employee cannot be forced to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment.”

This seems fairly cut and dried, and one might be tempted to be complacent in the belief that the court will rule in Mr. Coleman’s favour.  But wait … this is the year 2018 … the year in which the Supreme Court decided (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission) that a baker in Colorado, Jack Phillips, had the right to refuse to serve a gay couple based on his religious beliefs.  Although in that case, the court ruling warned that there were extenuating circumstances and this decision should not be interpreted as giving other businesses carte blanche to do what Jack Phillips did, some in the Christian community seem to have disregarded that warning.

In May, Donald Trump signed an executive order, “Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative”, that he said would “vigorously protect religious freedom”.  Taken at face value, that would indicate that Mr. Coleman’s freedom to refuse being forced to attend the Christian-based bible study courses would be protected and Mr. Dahl broke the law by terminating his employment. However, thus far it appears that Trump’s order has been interpreted to mean protecting only the Christian religions rather than all religious beliefs.

This will be an interesting case to follow. Will it end up on the docket of the Supreme Court?  It’s anybody’s guess at this early stage, and one would hope that the lower courts have the good sense to see that Mr. Dahl crossed a line.  But, this is the Era of Trump, the day of ‘alternative facts’, where up is down, red is green, and wrong is sometimes right. Hang on to your hats, folks.