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.

Bursting the Bubble …

I’ve talked and listened to a lot of people in the past few days who are convinced Donald Trump will be out of office before the 2020 presidential election.  Some are applauding, others are more concerned that the blatantly bigoted Michael Pence will prove to be more dangerous than Trump (highly unlikely).  A few nights ago, I said I would be writing more about the Manafort/Cohen situations after the dust settled and I had time to sit back and ponder the long and the short of it all.  Although the dust has not quite settled, I have pondered, and here is my take.

Donald Trump has undoubtedly broken the law, as confirmed by former lawyer Michael Cohen, and he is a sleazeball, to boot.  He has robbed this nation of many things, not the least of which is a fair and honest election. But folks … put away the party hats and put the champagne back in the fridge, because it doesn’t look as if Donald Trump is leaving the Oval Office any time soon.  Please … stop throwing the tomatoes at me … I know I am bursting your bubbles and raining on your parade, but that is no reason to throw rotten fruits at me.  Don’t shoot the messenger. Let me explain …

First of all:  impeachment.  As I told you in my post from July titled No Dancing in the Streets … Sorry! Donald Trump is very unlikely to be impeached as long as Congress remains divided almost completely along party lines.  Impeachment proceedings could be introduced in the House, and might even pass, depending on the demographics of the House after the November mid-terms.  But that does not remove him from office, does not even tie his hands.  Remember Bill Clinton’s impeachment?  It had no effect on his presidency, except to cast a dark cloud.

The Senate, even if every one of the 35 seats up for grabs in November goes to a democrat, still will not be able to garner the 2/3 majority required to remove the impeached president from office.  It would require a minimum of nine republican senators to find their cojones and vote to remove him, and at this point, I do not see it happening.

Next:  resignation.  I’ve heard a few say, “Well, he has to be feeling the pressure … perhaps he’ll just resign to save face”.  Sigh.  Think about it, friends.  Save face?  He lost that a long time ago, and his ego, his megalomania, keeps him convinced that he is Donald The Invincible, The Terminator, and The Incredible Hulk all rolled into one.  No, he is many things, but a quitter is not one.  He will not be like Richard Nixon and say “Good-bye” and ride off into the sunset.  He will stay until he is physically removed, dead or alive.

Third:  criminal indictment.  The Justice Department has taken the position twice that the president is not subject to indictment while in office and that no criminal charges can proceed against him unless he’s either removed from office by impeachment or has served out his term.  As a constitutional issue, it remains to be seen, but the precedent set by the Justice Department is clearly against indicting a sitting president.

The question then becomes:  Why are the republicans in Congress still supporting Trump, unwilling to even talk about removing him from office?  And the answer to that is simple … Trump’s base is as supportive as ever.  They have decided that he is their man, and thus far they haven’t heard anything that has changed their mind. Trump’s approval rating from Wednesday, when Paul Manafort was found guilty on 8 of the 18 charges against him, and Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 charges, until early this morning, dropped by … one-tenth of one percent … no more than the normal fluctuations of any average day.  And 80+% of all republican voters are supporters of Trump.Red state Blue stateNow, if you’re a republican senator from Iowa, a red state, and you’re up for re-election this year, the only way you stand a snowball’s chance in hell is if you are seen by the republican voters in your state as being a Trump supporter, for they definitely are.  And if the republicans won’t vote for you, who will?  Damn sure not the democrats or the independents, for you have been screwing them over for nearly two years now!  And thus, do not hold your breath waiting for any republican in Congress to do the right thing where Trump is concerned.

But why is he still popular?  His popularity with the republicans hinges on some of the very things we find most repugnant about him.  A Pew Research poll* released this month summarizes what Trump supporters most like about him:PEW pollAll of which goes to prove that the most ardent among Trump’s supporters are more interested in his personality than his policy positions.  Okay, frankly I don’t get it, for I find his personality thoroughly disgusting, but … different strokes for different folks.  But seriously … “he’s draining the swamp”?  NO … he has made it worse than it has ever been in the history of this nation!!!  And they’re still hung up on that old “he tells it like it is”.  NO … he has no clue how it is!!!  But anyway, all of this is irrelevant, for the bottom line is that his supporters still love him.

Jean Sickler of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was asked last week how she would rate Trump’s presidency. She gave him a 9 out of 10, and when asked why he lost a point, her reply was, “A little bit of the things in his tweeting.”  This, folks, is what we are up against.

Then what will it take … ??? 

The only thing that is going to see Trump leaving office before January 20th 2021 is if his base finally turns the tide against him.  Once his base, his loyal supporters realize that maybe, just maybe he isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, then the dominoes can begin to fall, the republicans in Congress will play to the masses and step back away from Trump, and we can begin to have serious discussions about impeachment.  I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking these past few days, and I have concluded that there is only one thing that is going to sway his base:  jobs and the economy.

When Trump’s policies start to hit his base in an up-close-and-personal way, they will open their eyes, stretch, yawn, and enlightenment will begin.  I say it will begin, because even at that point – and make no mistake, that day will come – if Trump can blame it on someone or something else in such a way that his followers buy his excuses, they may still support him.  It’s hard to say, for my crystal ball is in the shop this week, but I truly believe that when, due mostly to the tariffs he has imposed on friends and antagonists alike, jobs are lost, prices of food and other goods rise, the cost of health insurance goes up, and they suddenly find they are struggling just to provide the basics for their families, their eyes will begin to open.  I do not see anything else that will have that effect, for they frankly don’t care about his morals, they don’t care about his honesty or lack thereof, and they don’t care that he is a crass, vulgar cheater.

So, no my friends, much as I wish I could claim otherwise, Trump will not be leaving the White House soon.  I leave you with two parting thoughts:

  • Trump registered on the day after his January 2017 inauguration to run in 2020. He could very well actually win that election.
  • I’ve been wrong before … remember that I was the one who swore there was no way he was going to win in 2016. Let’s hope I’m wrong this time too!

* The article from which I took the Pew data has a number of other graphs and some interesting information about Trump supporters, so here is a link in case you’re interested.

Who Values Diversity?

I found these survey results, reported in an article by Brookings Institute, to be interesting … and depressing.  Not necessarily surprising, for they support what I have believed to be the case for some time now.  Take a look for yourself …

According to a Gallup survey released on July 18, the American people now regard immigration as the single most important problem facing the country, and the share of the population expressing this view stands at the highest level ever recorded. This surge of concern crosses partisan lines: the share of Republicans and Independents who name immigration as the top issue has more than tripled during the past year, and it has more than doubled among Democrats.

Although immigration is an issue trifecta, raising economic, security, and cultural concerns, recent surveys have underscored the centrality of culture, in the United States and throughout the West. Since the 1965 enactment of the momentous Hart-Cellar immigration reform bill, the share of first-generation immigrants in the U.S. population has tripled from less than five percent to about 14 percent. By 2050 at the latest, non-Hispanic whites will be a minority.

Unlike most demographic projections, this one has received wide publicity and has evoked diverse reactions. A Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey released earlier this week found that while 64 percent of Americans regard increasing demographic diversity as mostly positive, there are deep partisan divisions: Democrats believe that it’s mostly positive by an overwhelming margin of 85 to 13 percent, as do Independents by 59 to 34 percent, but 50 percent of Republicans regard it as mostly negative, compared to only 43 percent who favor it.

A closer look at the data reveals the sources of this cleavage. There are no gender differences, and age differences are much smaller than expected, with 57 percent of Americans 65 and older taking a positive view of rising diversity. Racial and ethnic differences are significant but not dispositive: 78 percent of both African-Americans as Hispanics see diversity as a plus, but so do 56 percent of white Americans. Much the same holds for regional differences: although 72 percent of respondents from the West and Northeast approve of increasing diversity, so do 60 percent of Midwesterners and 57 percent of Southerners.

The key drivers of partisan division are educational and religious differences among white Americans. Sixty-nine percent of whites with a BA or more have a mostly positive view of demographic diversity, compared to just 50 percent of whites without college degrees. As for religion, 52 percent of white Catholics and 56 percent of white mainline Protestants think rising diversity is mostly positive. By contrast, just 42 percent of white evangelical Protestants favor these changes, while 52 percent think they’re mostly negative. Two-thirds of whites without college degrees supported Republicans in the 2016 elections, as did eight in 10 white evangelicals.

The bottom line: the core of the Republican base is deeply uncomfortable with the central demographic trend of our time, which public policy is powerless to resist. Even if the U.S. slammed shut the doors of immigration, differences in birth rates between native-born citizens and newer arrivals would ensure the steady erosion of the population’s white majority, albeit at a slower pace.

Across the Atlantic, the rising tide of immigration has triggered similar fears, expressed in the language of national identity. A Pew Research Center analysis released on July 19 under the heading “It’s not just the economy” shows that supporters of the populist surge throughout Europe are far more likely than others to believe that only those who are born in their respective European countries and have family ties in these countries are truly “one of us.” In Italy, Germany, and France, about three-quarters of the League, the AfD, and the National Front party members espouse these views, as do 55 percent of Dutch populists and 40 percent of Swedish populists. Similarly large shares of European populists believe that their culture is superior to others and that Islam is incompatible with their values.

In both the United States and Europe, these changes feed a shared sense of national decline. In every European country Pew surveyed, supporters of populist parties are far more likely to say that life in their country is worse than it was 50 years ago for people like them. Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” brilliantly targeted these feeling of decline among Americans who feel displaced in the land of their birth. Suitably adjusted, this slogan would be equally effective in Europe—even in Germany, where many populists believe that their country has apologized more than enough for its past misdeeds.

I do not understand why it matters what colour skin a person has.  I don’t at all understand why it matters what group is a ‘minority’ or a ‘majority’.  And I damn sure don’t understand why anybody thinks a person with pale skin has more value than one with darker skin.  Why does there have to be “us” and “them”? The people in this nation have more important concerns, more important things to waste their time worrying about.  The environment, health care, poverty, global trade, our damaged foreign relations.  But apparently there are some groups that believe they are better than the rest of us, always have been and always will be, and that, folks, does not bode well for the future of the one race we all belong to — the human race.

Perspective

Whew!  It certainly has been a week, hasn’t it folks?  This morning I stumbled on something that put our present situation into perspective just a bit.  It is hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel in these dark times, and easy to believe that the destruction of our nation is at hand.  Our friend Roger of Woebegone frequently reminds me that this, too, shall pass and become naught but a blip in history.  An OpEd by Washington Post writer Dana Milbank this morning confirms this and since I found his words encouraging, I wanted to share them with you, my friends.

We interrupt this apocalypse vigil to say that America has conquered worse

dana-milbank.pngIt was another one of those weeks in which the wheels seemed to come off the axle of the American motor coach.

President Trump speculated about his power to pardon himself for crimes, and his lawyer said the president could shoot the now-former FBI director with legal impunity.

Trump is feuding with Canada and our closest allies in Europe, but is looking forward to “friendly” talks with North Korea, which, according to the CIA, has no intention of denuclearizing but is willing to open a hamburger restaurant.

Trump, inflaming racial tensions, disinvited the Super Bowl champions from a White House celebration and instead hosted a “loud” display of patriotism during which he muffed the words to “God Bless America.”

The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, it was learned, tried to use his position to get a position at Chick-fil-A for his wife, scented lotion from the Ritz-Carlton and a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel.

The first lady, mysteriously missing from public view for more than three weeks, returned in time to hear her husband use a FEMA briefing on hurricanes to talk about election polls, his love of coal and Air Force One.

Oh, and a contractor at the National Security Council was arrested as he arrived for work at the White House on a charge of attempted murder.

There is a tendency amid this chaos to think that American government is disintegrating before our eyes. But this week also reminded us that the country has survived worse. It was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, which itself followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at a time of war and rioting. We survived 1968. We’ll get through this, too.

I took a break from my apocalypse vigil this week to speak with Robert Mickey, a political-science professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in U.S. political history. And I offer this glass-half-full perspective on our current troubles:

Trump will not destroy American democracy.

Trump is a symptom of problems, more than the cause.

We’ll solve these problems — eventually.

“Our political situation is much more stable than it has been at many periods in U.S. history,” Mickey tells me, “and our discourse is more civil than a lot of those periods.”

During the 1790s, it wasn’t at all clear the new country would survive foreign invasion or internal division. The 1810s brought more of the same. The divisions of the 1850s led to the Civil War. The 1890s were filled with farmer revolts, strikes, robber barons, massive immigration, war with Spain, an economic depression and the expansion of Jim Crow. The 1930s brought the Great Depression and the rise of fascism. And then there was 1968.

Now, by contrast, “we have stable democratic institutions across the entire country in a way we profoundly did not before,” Mickey says. “The institutions we have, while being challenged, have been a source of strength.” Federalism has been a check on Trump, as California, New York and other states push back against him. The justice system, though assaulted by Trump, is proving to be a check on him. Trump, though breaking norms, seems to lack the competence to pull off a direct assault on democracy.

The real danger is not from Trump, but from the forces that gave rise to him and could continue to erode democracy over time: broad and persistent wealth inequality, the backlash against America’s shift from a white-majority nation toward a minority-majority one, the accompanying realignment of parties along racial lines and the related radicalization of the Republican Party.

Inequality destabilizes democracy by destroying the belief in “one person, one vote,” and giving rise to demagoguery. The United States is struggling with (and Trump is exploiting) its transformation from an electorate of white men to a multicultural one. “American democracy didn’t really kick in until the 1960s,” Mickey argues. “Periods we romanticize as civil and lovely were such because we struggled to keep race off the national agenda.”

Past crises have been resolved by either war, economic booms or luck. But this crisis could resolve itself by generational change.

Surveys from the Pew Research Center find that millennials are dramatically more likely than older generations to believe the country needs to make changes to give black people equal rights, that discrimination is the main thing holding African Americans back, that immigration strengthens the United States and that a bigger government that provides more services is better. There are indications the youngest and most nonwhite generation, Generation Z, will push against older generations even more on these questions.

This may be small comfort as Trump rains chaos and inflames tensions. It’s no excuse to relax in the fight to contain Trump. But we’ll get through this — even L’Affaire Chick-fil-A.

While this is encouraging, obviously we all still need to be speaking out against all the injustices, the threats as they happen.  But it’s helpful, I think, to remember that this nation has faced trials before and emerged intact.  Have a good weekend, my friends!

On Voters Not Voting – Part I: The Problem

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 offered1:

  • 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, 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 Part II, 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.

1 Statistic Brain 

This is Part I of a 3-part project on Voters not Voting.  Part II will take a look at the demographics — who isn’t voting and why. And finally, Part III will look at some things that can be done to help solve the problem and get people to the polls on November 6th.