Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Phrase of the Day: BLACK SNAKE STOPPED (AGAIN)

Seven months ago, I first posted about the Dakota Access pipeline and the struggle the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was having to get it stopped.  On the day of the posting (December 4, 2016), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced they would not be granting an easement for the pipeline to go through, stopping the progress in its tracks, in a major victory for Standing Rock.  President Obama ordered the permit to be pulled, and then said more study was required to see if the pipeline could be routed differently.  It was a time of celebration, but the celebration did not last long.

Just over seven weeks later, and merely four days in office, President Trump resurrected the Black Snake (as Standing Rock calls the pipeline) with an executive memorandum -- a document similar to an executive order -- to put the Dakota Access pipeline back on track.  Environmentalists and the Sioux tribe were appalled and in shock.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, was seen as a key in getting any and all permits secured.  The fight went on, even though the Trump administration was seen, and still is seen, as a greater environmental threat.

Last month, Federal Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers "did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline's effects are likely to be highly controversial" in its initial issuance of an easement one year ago.  Judge Boasberg did not, however, go so far as to say the pipeline should be shut down until a new environmental study is completed.

Where the Court had ruled against Standing Rock (i.e. the Corps did not act too quickly on permits earlier this year, the pipeline does not infringe on Standing Rock's cultural heritage), last month's ruling somewhat reversed that.  Earlier this week, Judge Boasberg ruled that the Trump administration's hastily-approved permits from the Corps violated the law.  Once again, Judge Boasberg did not rule that the pipeline should be shut down until a new environmental study is done.

The Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, David Archambault II, released a statement that read:
        "The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this
        pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental
        considerations in favor of political and personal interests.
        "We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue
        political influence and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations
        immediately."


Jan Hasselman, an attorney from EarthJustice, an Environmental Law law firm that is representing Standing Rock, added:
        "This decision marks an important turning point.  Until now, the rights of the
        Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the
        Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump administration -- prompting a well-
        deserved global outcry.  The federal courts have stepped in where our
        political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities."


The Black Snake has been stopped ... again ... but not for good.  The fight goes on.

Terry

Monday, June 19, 2017

Term of the Day: FIFTH ANNIVERSARY

2 0 1 2  -  2 0 1 7


It's hard to believe that it has been five years since I began this blog.  It was on June 19, 2012 when I posted my very first entry here.  It dealt with a case in Texas in which an elementary school teacher dealt with bullying, taking a six-year-old into her classroom and having her students line up and hit the child.  (A misdemeanor conviction for "official oppression" was overturned.)


It wasn't long after that initial post that I was writing about a myriad of topics.  Some of the topics were the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting, illegal immigration, the Dead Sea Scrolls, same-sex marriage, Barack Obama winning his second term in office, the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the death with dignity movement, the Boston Marathon bombings, and (at the time) the beginning of peeling back of voting rights for minorities.

And that was just the first year!

My initial intent was to have the "of the Day" title to always be simply the Word of the Day, although sometimes, the title has been Words of the Day.  That one-word title didn't last long, as my first Phrase of the Day post ("Connecting with the Past") was within the first month.  (There have even been Phrases of the Day posts.)  Weeks after my first Phrase of the Day, my first Term of the Day ("Same-Sex Marriage") appeared.  Two years ago, the affliction known as Meniere's Disease was the first Name of the Day.

B.B. King's passing was the occasion for the only Title of the Day ("King of the Blues"); the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, was the focus of the only Measurement of the Day ("Parts Per Billion"); and the only Question of the Day ("When Is This Crap Going to Stop?") was in response to the massacre at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and all of the shootings of black individuals here in the United States.

There have been several multi-part postings over the past five years.  There were, however, two occasions where the title was not "of the Day", but "of the Week".  The first was a seven-part post ("To Protect and to Serve") about the killings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner by police.  Just last month, the second posting ("Treacherous") was a five-parter that addressed U.S. President Donald Trump.

Sometimes, the posting has been a Film/Movie of the Day, where I have shared some interesting documentaries, ranging from the Iraq War and 9/11 to Blues music and Halloween.  For these entries, I have always tried to choose documentaries that have had major theatrical releases as well as those that have been shown strictly on television.

My New Year's postings have changed over the years.  My first one (January 5, 2013) dealt a little bit with the Mayan "prediction" about the end of the world in 2012.  On January 2, 2014, my focus was on New Year's resolutions, including my belief that not making any New Year's resolution is, in an odd way, a resolution itself.  Beginning with my third New Year's post (January 1, 2015), I began the tradition of posting a video of a song as a kind of goodbye to the year gone by and hello to the new year ahead.  The first song was Dead Man Fall's 'Bang Your Drum'.  (I also recalled my elbow surgery in the summer of the previous year.)  I featured Greg Holden's 'Hold On Tight' in my fourth New Year's posting (January 1, 2016), while talking about friends getting me through some tough times in previous year.  This year's posting featured Elvis Presley's classic 'If I Can Dream'.

And yes, I already have a song picked out for my 2018 New Year's post.

As any regular reader of this blog will note, and as I have said in the past, I do not post every day, every week, or even every month.  My postings can be described as coming in fits and starts.  I like to post when I feel I have something to say on a topic.  Most of the time, it's in one post; sometimes, posts run over several days.  That is not to say there is very little that happens in the world that grabs my attention or makes me feel anything.  To the contrary, many things grab my attention or make me feel something, but my intent is to create post that is, hopefully, worthwhile to you.  I know it makes it difficult to maintain a steady audience, but I am not a fan of writing lines of words merely for the sake of writing lines of words.  (I went through that in grade school and high school.)

As this blog inches toward 10,000 views, I must be doing something right.

My thanks to all of you, my dear readers, for finding something of value here.  If you are a long-time reader, an occasional reader, or a new reader, keep hanging in there with me.  I can promise you that I will continue to do my best to provide you with something of value in these pages.




Terry

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Word of the Day: HACKED

There has been much talk about hacking for many years.  Such is the nature of computers and relative technologies.  We've seen hacking of companies' files of customers' information.  We've seen hacking of personal computers.  We've seen hacking of elections.  

However, the hacking being addressed today is quite different and the most pervasive.

The short film below does, I believe, express this kind of hacking quite well.  It comes from English animator and illustrator Steve Cutts. [website]



In his well-known novel 1984, author George Orwell includes the following quote...
        "To hang on from day to day and from week to week, spinning out a present that
        had no future, seemed an unconquerable instinct, just as one's lungs will always
        draw the next breath so as there is air available."
                                 [pt 2, ch 5]

It certainly feels that way from many, many people -- not such much intentionally ignoring, but mere acquiescence.  There is, however, another kind of ignorance that falls under self-absorption.  The following quote from a stage adaptation of Orwell's novel is quite appropriate for today:
        "The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough
        to notice what’s happening."

Thus, misdirection is the means; apathy is the end.  

In short, the greatest hack of all time is right in front of us because it is us.

Terry

Monday, May 29, 2017

Term of the Day: ULTIMATE SACRIFICE


It is Memorial Day here in the United States.  It is the day we honor those who served in the military and made the ultimate sacrifice, dying for their country in the line of duty.  Often confused with Veterans' Day, which is for those who served in the military and are still alive, Memorial Day is probably the most solemn of all the non-religious holidays celebrated in the U.S.

As a side note, regarding confusing the two holidays, how often do you go to a memorial for a living person?

My father served in the U.S. Army in Germany during World War II.  He came home, thank goodness, and was even awarded the Purple Heart, but many of those with whom he served, and so many others he never knew, did not come home.  The same is true of those who have served in all wars where the U.S. was involved.  A far from exhaustive list would include:
Revolutionary War 
War of 1812
American Civil War
Nez Perce War
Spanish-American War
World War I
World War II
Korean War
Cold War
Vietnam War
Gulf War
Bosnian War
Kosovo War
Iraq War
War in Afghanistan

And yet, as with a variety of holidays with deeper meanings than just days off from work or school (i.e. Veterans' Day, Christmas, Independence Day), the real meanings are lost on many Americans today.  The sense of civic awareness and responsibility seems a rare breed.


Civic ignorance at its finest.

I think civic ignorance is part of the problem.  I think another part of the problem is the public's perception of war.  It has diminished under the weight of mistrust and disillusion as, more and more, wars in the latter twentieth century and in the twenty-first century no longer fall under the same dynamic as, say, World Wars I and II.

As an anti-war individual, Memorial Day is not a day for me to gripe about the military.  My feeling is hate the mission, if you must, but love the soldier.  For me, it is a reminder of why I am against war: the only guarantee.is death.  Simultaneously, it is a reminder of those who sacrificed for this country in which I live so that I wouldn't have to go to war.  The two are not, for me, mutually exclusive of one another.

It is a reminder to stand up and work for a more peaceful world and to honor those who have fallen.



Perhaps it is the distastefulness of war that has also resulted in less observance of Memorial Day, but that ends up being disrespectful to those who died.  It is a melding together of missions (whatever their alleged outcomes are) and those who died in the line of battle.  They are not, and never have been, one in the same.  Remember, hate the mission, if you must, but love the soldier.

Memorial Day is not for the missions that occurred, but for the soldiers who died.  They deserve our honor and respect.




Terry

Friday, May 19, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 5 of 5]

As you get older in life, you learn to care less about what others think about you than you may have when you were younger.  You decide, if not far sooner in life, to not let what others see about you dictate how you act.  Be yourself, as they say.

That is easier said than done in politics.  Sometimes you say or do what you want to say or do, others times not.  How a president and his administration behave is perceived and reflected back.  Trump's approval ratings very low.  Congress' ratings ... they have been terrible for years.  What you do or don't do is also reflected back around the world.  Not that people from other countries didn't have opinions about the U.S. president back in the days of strictly newspapers, but the global world connected by the Internet and twenty-four-hour news cycles in which we live amplifies their reactions and opinions.

No doubt, those opinions will be tested during President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, and Belgium, for which he left today.  Not only what he has been saying while here in the U.S. will be factored in, but what he says during this trip will be listened to closely.  What will he say?  No one knows for certain, but it has been reported that Stephen Miller, who authored Trump's Muslim ban, is writing Trump's speech about Islam, which he will deliver in Saudi Arabia.  Fingers crossed.

One of the ways on reflecting back via the media is political cartoons.  The art form has been around for centuries and has continued to present day.  What a treasure trove of material Mr. Trump has been giving them!  I would like to offer a small sampling of what political cartoonists from around the world have been etching about President Trump, and let's see how he is perceived.  

Australia

© Cathy Wilcox


Belgium

© Cecile Bertrand


Netherlands

© Tjeerd Royaards


Israel

© Michel Kichka


China

© Lichuan Xia


India

© Akshita Monga


United Arab Emirates
© Paresh Nath


Netherlands

© Geert Jegrom


Germany
© Edel Rodriguez / Der Spiegel

Is this how the leader of the free world should appear around the world?  Is this how you want your president to be perceived?  I know I do not!

There have been plenty of political cartoons here in the U.S. about Trump as well, but one that stopped me in my tracks is the cover of the upcoming issue of Time magazine...  

Back in November, just two days after the election, I concluded a blog posting with the following:
        "I believe that Donald Trump is dangerous for this country, both domestically
        and internationally.  I think his proposed policies and actions are ruinous and
        will make us more unstable and divided domestically, more hated
        internationally, and far less safe as a whole, and I am worried about my
        country's future.  I am a big enough boy to eat my words and apologize if I
        am wrong, but I voted in this election and that is how I sincerely feel in its
        aftermath.  As a citizen of this country, Mr. Trump, please prove me wrong."



President Trump, sadly, you have proven me right.

Terry  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 4 of 5]

In the Broadway musical 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas', the character of the Governor of Texas opens the second act with the song 'The Sidestep'.  The song is about the oft-used political exercise of avoiding certain issues.  The chorus of the song is as follows:
Ooh, I love to sidestep
Now they see me, now they don't
I've come and gone and
Ooh, I love to sweep around the wide step
Cut a little swath and lead the people on


Let me be clear: Donald Trump is not the first politician to sidestep and lead the people on.  Sadly, he won't be the last.  And yet, for someone who kept saying he was not a politician time and time again, he certainly has found the ability to sidestep and lead the people on quite well.  Let's face it, being in business, particularly in big business, brings out those qualities in a person.  (The late comedian George Carlin once commented that businessmen don't even trust each other, particularly if making a deal.)

When you are a businessman -- and I am focusing on big business here, but this is true across the board -- you want your business to do well.  No big surprise there.  After all, you don't go into business to lose money and then fold.  If your focus, however, is so narrow on monetary gain, you may well be tempted to cut corners, keep certain information quiet, or engage in other activities to that end.  There have certainly been examples giving of Trump doing certain things through the years that were improper or unethical.  To that extent, Trump, being a global businessman, has dealings with not only cities and municipalities, but governments as well.  (I noted yesterday many of the countries Trump has dealt with for years.)

Aside from some of his dozens and dozens of executive orders affecting cities and municipalities (i.e. federal government involvement in education, the opioid crisis), Trump is still dealing with countries as President of the United States.  In business, there really is no system of checks and balances, per se, as established in the U.S. Constitution for the federal government.  A local Chamber of Commerce, a customer, or an employee may make note to at least local authorities about illegal activities, which may result in a subsequent investigation.  In government, all three branches of government can be used to keep the other branches from getting too big for their britches.

That, however, is part of the rub ... running the government like a business, a la Ross Perot (don't spend money you don't yet have) is pragmatic.  Running the government as Trump views the world (do whatever you have to, to make more money) is dangerous, reckless, and, frankly, un-American.  To be clear again: behind-the-scenes and back door deals by the U.S. government have been going on forever.  A lot of what Trump has been doing has not even been behind-the-scenes, but right out in the open.

Trump's business dealings with Russia, which go back roughly three decades, began with his attempt in the late 1980s to build a luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin with the Soviet government as a partner.  The deal fell through, but Trump did meet with members of the Politburo who worked on financial and economic matters.  In the mid-1990s, Trump proposed an underground mall, also near the Kremlin, but that, too, fell through.  Afterward, Trump contracted with a Russian law firm from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s in order to file for several trademarks in Russia.

Donald Trump's business dealings with Russia have continued throughout the 2000s and 2010s.  Those dealings include attempts to establish Trump name branding, a short-lived vodka brand,.and real estate pursuits.  To that last point, Trump's older son, Donald Trump, Jr., was a frequent visitor to Russia in the late 2000s and was even quoted saying in a 2008 interview for the Russian newspaper Kommersant, "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.  We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."

Then there was the Miss Universe Pageant, which Trump owned until 2015 and brought to Moscow in 2013.  Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov forked over twenty million dollars to fund the pageant.  Agalarov has ties to Vladimir Putin and to Trump, with whom he has had business deals.  As much as Trump was excited for the pageant being in Moscow, he was also open about being excited at the potential to meet Vladimir Putin.

As far as we know, the two did not meet then.  Whether they did meet then, or at any point between then and now, is still unknown.   

As has happened in politics countless times before, always for dubious reasons, lies and deception have been, and are being, used by Trump and his staff and administration.  Not just lies that feed his ego (i.e. most electoral votes in an election win ever, size of his inauguration crowd) but other, larger, lies and deceptions have been utilized.


To start, Trump feels that his saying it makes it so just doesn't work for many Americans ... and several political leaders and citizens of other countries, too.  He uses Twitter, interviews, and appearances to distract constantly ...

He claimed he fired Michael Flynn because Flynn lied to Vice-President Mike Pence about his foreign dealings.  Some initial investigation (still ongoing) showed the connections Flynn had with Turkey, so Trump cut him loose, likely to end any attention to Russia.
He claimed he had no idea bout Flynn's foreign ties.  Yesterday, The New York Times revealed that Trump's transition team knew about Flynn being under investigation weeks before Inauguration Day.
He claimed the whole Flynn fiasco was not his administration's fault, but President Barack Obama's administration's fault.  If Flynn didn't have dealings with Russia until after he left the Obama administration, how is that the Obama administration's fault? 

He claimed he fired Sally Yates, who was the Acting Deputy Attorney General, because she refused to defend his first travel ban against Muslims.  True, she did, but she was also warning the Trump transition team and administration about Flynn's ties to Russia and he didn't want to hear it.
He claimed that former Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired because he would not resign voluntarily at the request of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which Trump directed Sessions to do to Bharara and forty-five other U.S. attorneys.  Bharara was investigating money-laundering by a Russian company that Trump may or may not have had any connection.
He claimed the reporting on what is going on with his administration was wrong, but not the doing itself, and that legitimate reporting was "fake news".  Don't pay attention and only report what I tell you to report is a move of a tyrant.
He claimed his bombing of a Syrian military airport in early April was a result of his seeing child victims of gas attacks and being deeply moved by it.  He may have been moved by the pictures -- they were horrific -- but bombing an airport where pretty much everyone there had cleared the area ahead of time did nothing.  It was a diversionary move away from the Trump-Russia story.
He claimed no administration had accomplished as much as his in its first ninety days.  That is simply false.  Ask any historian.
He claimed Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped.  You can add this claim to his claim that Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen. 
He claimed the Trump-Russia story was made up by Democrats because of their loss in the Presidential election.  Oh. you mean like you and other Republicans claimed Obama was not a U.S. citizen and should be disqualified from office?
He claimed, based on the fruitless Hillary Clinton E-mail investigation, that mishandling of sensitive information would happen in abundance in a Clinton administration.  He freely gave away sensitive intelligence information, which came from Israel, to a Russian ambassador (Sergei Kislyak, with whom both Carter Page and Jared Kushner met) and foreign minister ... and with only Russian media present. 
He claimed, and continues to claim, he has no ties to Russia.  Alternative fact alert!

A weak argument, and it would be weak, could be made that Trump's business experience may have prepared him for politics.  In terms of how to function as the executive in the White House?  Absolutely not.  In terms of lies and deception?  Oh, yes ... clearly, and most emphatically, yes.

Terry



Part 5 Tomorrow

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 3 of 5]

When he ran for President in the 1990's, Independent candidate and businessman Ross Perot routinely stated that government needed to be run like a business -- his key point was to not spend more than you bring in -- and he was right.  Government is not just a body dealing with laws, since sometimes those laws are financially related, and sometimes it deals more directly with financial matters.

I remember when George W. Bush was running for President in 2000.  A lot of hub-bub was made about how he would be the first president with a business degree, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and how well he would perform his duties as such.  Whether that degree had anything to do with it or not, his political record stands as testament to his being a poor leader.

Donald Trump, as we know, is a businessman, and has been for decades.  He is most notably known in New York City, where he got his start, but his reach has become global to where his name is known around the world.  His business dealings extend to other countries, including Canada, Mumbai, Indonesia, Panama, Istanbul, Scotland, Russia (where he's been involved for the better part of thirty years), and (as of just two months ago) China.  The Chinese preliminary approval of Trump brands, which may become permanent next month, includes massage parlors and escort services.  (The latter being called "escort and concierge services".)  Trump's first public griping about China was just over a year ago, right around the time he applied for this brand approval in China.  Divert, divert, divert.

What about divest, divest, divest?  It is common practice for those elected President of the United States to divest themselves from any and all business ties.  First, and foremost, there is the "emoluments clause" in the U.S. Constitution:
        "[N]o person holding any Office [of the United States] ... shall, without the
        Consent of the Congress,
 accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title,
        of any kind whatever, from 
any King, Prince, or foreign State"                                                                                                                              (Article I, section 9, clause 8)


Donald Trump's acquisition of a preliminary green light on branding in China was done without the consent of Congress.

The emoluments clause -- an emolument is defined as "a salary, a fee, or a profit from employment or office" -- was added to the U.S. Constitution (in the words of South Carolina Senator Charles Pickney at the Constitutional Convention) to keep "foreign Ministers and other officers of the U.S. independent of external influence".  That was from the late eighteenth century.

Fast forward to the mid-twentieth century, there is the 1961 Supreme Court decision in the case of United States v Mississippi Valley Generating Company.  The case dealt with a representative of the MVGC entering into a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission to build and operate a power plant to serve the long-defunct Atomic Energy Commission.  Turns out, the representative was also an officer of an investment banking company which would have profited from the project.  (He was the Vice-President and Director of the investment company!)  The contract was terminated, since the project was deemed no longer necessary, by the Atomic Energy Commission.  The MVGC sued the U.S. in a lower court for costs and damages and won, but an appeal to the Supreme Court resulting in its agreeing to review the case,

In its 9-3 decision in favor of the United States, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court's decision on the basis of the representative essentially acting on both the government and MVGC's behalf as well as the behalf of the investment company simultaneously, setting up a conflict of interest.  As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, the contract was, in fact, rendered null and void.  In fact, this representative's actions were in violation of a statute that reads:
        "Whoever, being an officer, agent, or member of, or directly or indirectly
        interested in the pecuniary
[monetary] profits or contracts of any corporation
        joint-stock company, or association, or of any firm or partnership, or other
        business entity, is employed or acts as an officer or agent of the United States
        for the transaction of business with such business entity, shall be fined not
        more than $2,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
                                                                                                                                          (brackets mine)


Now, why, you may ask, bring up this case, as it has nothing to do with the office of President of the United States.  Good question!  Everything in this post up to this point means that, as a federal employee, you should be putting the interests of the United States first and foremost and not illegally profiting off such.

Yes, Donald Trump is President, but he is a businessman first and foremost.  It is what he knows best, what he is most comfortable in dealing, and where he has achieved his financial success.  He even admits to not being fully comfortable as President.  How do you go from focusing on what's best for yourself, primarily, and even for those select others in your business circles, to focusing on what's best for an entire country?  Well, "you don't" is not fully appropriate.  Rather, the answer to how is more aptly "difficultly, continually, and without exception".

President Trump either does not understand that or thinks it does not apply to him.  All of the previous presidents, sure.  Him?  Not so much.  Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the U.S., gave up his peanut farm which he started from scratch.  Richard Nixon, the 37th President, sold off most of his assets.  John F. Kennedy, President #35, put all of his conflicts of interest into a blind trust.  President Kennedy understood what a blind trust was.  President Trump ... do I really need to say?

A blind trust means that all of the assets held by someone in public office (or not in public office) are run by a third party, with no information going to, or coming from, the person who initially holds those assets.  It is done by presidents to help keep their focus on what is best for the country.  And Mr. Trump?  Well, at a Republican debate last year, when pressed on this issue, he responded by saying, "Well, I don't know if it's a blind trust if Ivanka, Don, and Eric run it.  If that's a blind trust, I don't know."

Yes, he knew!  Of course he knew!  The only people who believed him when him said that are those who didn't know what a blind trust is and had no interest in finding out.

I mentioned earlier about making money for yourself and some select others.  Let us look at the recent goings-on with the Kushner family -- yes, the family of Ivanka Trump's husband -- over in China.  On May 5th, President Trump signed bill H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, into law.  The bill is for the funding of the U.S. government to the end of fiscal year 2017.  However, as reported by The New York Times newspaper, smothered in the nether regions of the text of the bill, there is a renewal of a visa program from which Jared Kushner's family stands to benefit mightily.  The EB-5 visa program came out of the Immigration Act of 1990 and it allowed wealthy foreign investors to gain visas for permanent U.S. residence in exchange for investing at least one million dollars in companies that will employ -- get this -- at least ten workers.  You read that right, ten workers.  It has been riddled with scandals for years.

Even before Trump signed the bill into law, Jared's sister Nicole Meyer was already on a flight to China to participate in two Kushner Companies presentations to Chinese investors over that weekend.  What were the presentations about?  You guessed it, making a big investment in a U.S. business to gain visas.  The dollar amount kicked around was $500,000, which would have to come from each investor, and it would be invested in a pair of luxury apartment towers located in Jersey City, New Jersey, called One Journal Square, owned by Kushner Companies.  The total investment would be $15,000,000.  One big problem, though, was Nicole Meyer's mentioning her brother's name and showing a picture of President Trump during her presentations.  (Kushner Companies, back when Jared was in charge, received a whopping $50,000,000 investment from EB-5 monies for a condo high-rise called Trump Plaza, also in Jersey City.)

The military industrial complex has also been financially fruitful for Trump, and will continue to do so.  When he ordered an air strike on an airfield in Syria last month, the missiles used were Tomahawk cruise missiles.  Tomahawk missiles are made by a company called Raytheon.  After the strike took place, Raytheon's stock price rose.  And yes, you probably guessed it again, Trump owns stock in Raytheon.

And, lest we forget, Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort doubled its membership fees from $200,000 to $400,000 less than a week after his being sworn in as President, and he profits from everyone, including foreign dignitaries who stay at his D.C. Trump International Hotel, which opened in the fall of last year.  He's even looking into opening a second hotel in D.C.

My point is not that presidents should not be allowed to make money aside form their salary.  Many of them have paid speaking engagements and write books, including their memoirs, after they leave office, so to say other presidents can do that but not the current one is wrong.  However, the Trump presidency is turning the White House into a farm ... he's using the position as a cash cow ...

... like almost any big businessman would.

Terry

Part 4 Tomorrow

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 2 of 5]

Think about your favorite books and/or films about spies.  You know the kind, complete with plenty of espionage, intrigue, shady characters, and questionable goings-on.  The story would unfold, pulling you in, slowly, methodically.  It would create its own world for you to inhabit with the author or screenwriter.  If everything going on with Trump presidency was in a film or book, that would be the world it created.

What I am addressing is, however, real life.

Let us start with Trump's ongoing admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.  President Trump has verbally trash-talked about other politicians (including those in his own party), other world leaders, and various other individuals and groups throughout his entire campaign, and continues to do so.  At one point in the campaign, he said bombing Europe (for whatever reason it might be "necessary", I assume) cannot be taken off the table.  After calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel "fantastic" and "highly respected", he said the following in response to her welcoming Syrian refugees into Germany: "[T]hey're going to have riots in Germany.  What's happening in Germany, I always thought Merkel was, like, this great leader.  What she's done in Germany is insane."

And when Chancellor Merkel visited the President earlier this year, here is what the President thought was a proper response to her request for a polite gesture.

That's how you treat the leader of a U.S. ally?

However, when it comes to the leader of a country that is not an ally of the United States, Vladimir Putin, Trump is eerily silent.  In place of any kind of slander, no matter how slight, Trump lauds praise on the Russian leader (i.e. "highly respected within his own country and beyond", "a leader, unlike [Obama]"), while being careful to remind us that he neither knows nor has met Putin.

Ah, but others who are, or were, part of his administration have met the Russian President.  Trump's Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is a former CEO of ExxonMobil and he has had ties with Putin and Russia for years.  (Maybe having someone who works with and profits from an enemy of the U.S. as your Secretary of State is a bad idea?)  In fact, the President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies described Tillerson as having "more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American, with the exception of Dr. Henry Kissinger" in an interview for The Wall Street Journal newspaper back in December.  In fact, Tillerson was awarded the Russian Medal of Friendship for his work of cooperation in the field of energy.

And let's not forget former National Security Advisor (for a whole twenty-four days), Gen. Michael Flynn.  Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump on January 30, has been testifying in front of a Senate committee to the extent that Flynn was known by her to be likely targeted by Russia.  President Obama knew that he could be a problem and even warned Trump not to pick him for any administration position during their transition period at the White House.  Ms. Yates offered the same warning.  Much of Flynn's activity, that should have warranted filing with the U.S. government as a foreign agent, was with Turkey since last year.  Well, it did warrant his doing that, but he didn't do so until just over three weeks after he was fired from the National Security Advisor position.

There is also his attendance at a tenth anniversary gala for RT (Russia Today television network), Russia's propaganda machine, in December of 2015 after being interviewed by the network (for a cool $45,000) and having appeared on the network from time to time as an analyst.
Gen. Flynn (left) next to Putin at RT gala (December 2015)

Oh yeah, there's that tiny piece of business where General Flynn failed to mention involvement with both countries and getting paid for both while being vetted for the National Security Advisor position.  (Sorry, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, vetting does, indeed, reoccur the higher up in security clearance you go.)

The grab bag gets deeper: Jared Kushner, President Trump's Senior Advisor and son-in-law met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kisliak twice and once with the head of Russia's state-owned bank for development and foreign business, Sergey Gorkov.  Trump's first campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has ties with Russia that go as far back as twelve years ago.  (Trump and his people have been saying Manafort's role in Trump's campaign was "limited".)  Carter Page, Mr. I-Just-Like-Being-On-TV, a Trump campaign foreign advisor, like Jared Kushner, met with Ambassador Kisliak.  (Their meeting was at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.)  J.D. Gordon, a national security advisor to the Trump campaign, also met with Kisliak at the Republican National Convention.  He pushed for a more pro-Russia/anti-Ukraine platform at the convention.  (Remember Russia annexing eastern Ukraine a few years ago?)  The language in the platform was softened from looking to arm Ukranian fighters against Russian forces, down to "appropriate assistance" and "greater coordination with NATO defense planning".  (Yes, that is, as Trump put it, the same former "obsolete" and now "no longer obsolete" NATO.)

The FBI investigation, now without Director James Comey, who was fired one week ago today, as well as the Senate and (damaged) House investigations continue.  How much deeper do these ties to Russia go?  How much more involved with an enemy of the U.S. is this President as his various associates and connections?  And why is this being allowed to continue?

Terry


Part 3 Tomorrow 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 1 of 5]

[I want to apologize for not writing in a while.  Life and being overwhelmed with what's been happening here in the U.S. have consumed me.  I also want to note that this blog recently passed 9,000 views (and is already well on the way to 10,000).  Thank you very much, dear readers!]

Though opinions may vary on the worst President of the United States ever, the name that comes up quite frequently (perhaps most frequently?) among many historians and followers of history is James Buchanan, our fifteenth President.  The governing style of "Old Buck", as he was known, went from indecisive and ineffective to one wrong decision after another.  He supported various compromises that allowed the spread of slavery, and publicly declared (at his inauguration, no less) support for the Supreme Court's upcoming Dred Scott v. Sandford decision.  (The Court ruled that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery among the colonies.)  He did nothing regarding states that wanted to secede from the Union, believing the Constitution did not give him any power to get involved.  Add to this the "Utah War" (or "Buchanan's Blunder") and the little-discussed "Pig War".  (The former being a jurisdictional dispute and the latter being a territorial dispute, both exacerbated by Buchanan's doing.)

What a resumé!

Buchanan's one term as President ended more than 150 years ago and I think it is important to use it as a backdrop against the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, who is already being cited as the worst U.S. President ever, just four months into his term.  (For the record, no, I am not a member of President Trump's party saying Americans should just "give him a chance" after everything that has happened so far,)  That is not to say that there haven't been other bad occurrences in other Presidents' terms -- a non-exhaustive list might include Teapot Dome, Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran-Contra, The Great Recession, Iraq War, and the "War Against Terror" -- but I will use Buchanan's presidency as my main backdrop.

In comparison to James Buchanan's indecision regarding major issues affecting the entire country, does Donald Trump also operate with indecision?  It depends on who you ask.  He does not appear to do so when he storms ahead with executive orders.  Then again, he does stomp forward and back off on other intentions and campaign promises.   He appears to mean what he says and intends to do what he does.  Any cognitive dissonance about his saying one thing and doing another as being merely indecision can be quelled with the knowledge that it was not indecision; it was lying ("not being fully forthcoming" in political-speak) about various campaign promises.

That about does it for indecision.

James Buchanan made several poor decisions in his presidency for the wrong reasons or because of not being fully informed.  And what about Donald Trump?  He absolutely makes decisions for the wrong reasons and without being properly informed; the latter fueled by his own ignorance and his staff and Cabinet's inexperience.  (The only decision of his with which I fully agreed was the backing out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, as noted in my posting from two years ago.)

While not a direct corollary, a rather broad similarity can be drawn between Buchanan's "Pig War" and President Trump's action on the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Both are territorial disputes with the added element, in terms of the pipeline, of breaking a treaty with the Native American nations.  Not to mention the more-direct corollary of the U.S. government's treatment of indigenous peoples.  I guess nineteenth century treaties are just too old and no longer apply.

Wait, the U.S. Constitution is an eighteenth century document...

Granted, the job of U.S. President entails far more now than it ever did -- consider that roughly 3/4 of all Presidents did not have the specter of nuclear war hanging over their heads -- but that simply means the likelihood of bad decisions and the breadth of their results have exponentially increased.  President Trump's decisions are unfortunately clearer-than-usual examples of such.

His weekend getaways with his family so regularly are not the norm for Presidents; they tend to stay at home in the White House.  Trump treats the White House as merely his office ... make that merely an office.  American taxpayers, not Trump himself, are paying for his lavish lifestyle.  His Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida has been dubbed "White House South", while Trump Tower in New York City has been dubbed "White House North".  Apparently, Camp David, the presidential retreat, isn't quite up to his standards.  It is important to note than almost all Americans do not, and never have, lived at his standards, and included in those numbers are those who voted for him.  They didn't mind him being a successful businessman and enjoying the spoils, but they weren't told they'd pay for those spoils.  Perhaps, in light of the climate of the 2016 election, that still may not have mattered to his voters in the long run.

Two ironic terms to already come out of this presidency are "fake news" (thank you, Mr. Trump) and "alternate facts" (thank you, Kellyanne Conway).  They're ironic because "fake news", as the President uses it, means facts reported correctly that he doesn't like, and "alternate facts", as Kellyanne Conway used it, means lies.

Then there is Russia.  Oh my, there is a lot of Russia!  In addition to hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and influencing the 2016 American Presidential election, seriously, how many people who are or were on his staff, in his Cabinet, or among his appointees have no connection to Russia whatsoever?  Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, original National Security Adviser nominee Michael Flynn, adviser Carter Page, original campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner (Trump's son-in-law), not to mention other family members and business associates of Trump, are among the names of people with ties to Russia.

Does the phrase "stinks to high heaven" come to mind?

Let us not forget that one of the big aspects of business is marketing.  That can mean conveying information about a product and targeting a certain audience.  In the 2016 campaign and during his young presidency, Trump is not promoting a business, but his favorite product, himself.  It is often said that, when presenting yourself on a job interview, you are selling yourself; you become the product, in essence, that you want them to buy (hire).  That is meant to instill a sense of self-confidence.  In the course of his campaign, and even more so during his time in the White House, Trump's narcissism is the fuel he has used to sell his favorite product.  In fact, his worldview is if he likes it, you will, too ... if he wants it, you will, too ... if he says it, you will believe it.  It does appear he is finding out his selling tactics have not been as hands-down successful as he thought.

More to consider: Watch this video, which I first posted back in February, and let's discuss.


Let's compare Robert Reich's seven signs to Trump's presidency:
EXAGGERATE THEIR MANDATE TO GOVERN -- Trump's campaign and his Vice-President, Mike Pence, have said publicly, before and after taking the oath of office, that a "huge margin" gave Trump a mandate to do what "the voters want".   CHECK

TURN PUBLIC AGAINST THE MEDIA -- Trump has repeatedly referred to mainstream news outlets as fake news, openly arguing with some of their reporters at press meetings, and even referring to the media as "the greatest threat to democracy".  ✔ CHECK

REPEATEDLY LIES TO PUBLIC -- In reality, he cannot successfully do the other six things on this list without lying.  He has lied again and again with no signs of stopping.  ✔ CHECK

BLAMING ECONOMIC STRESSES ON IMMIGRANTS / CREATING ANTI-IMMIGRANT BIAS / THREATENING MASS DEPORTATIONS / ESTABLISH REGISTRY OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES / BANNING OF REFUGEES -- (This was a full one!)  Trump, like many politicians, have claimed for some time that those who immigrate here illegally are hurting the economy.  From the day he announced his candidacy, Trump's rhetoric has been anti-immigrant and his rally attendees were whipped into a frenzy.  He hasn't just threatened mass deportations, he has begun them.  Last year was when Trump first brought up the idea of a Muslim registry (database), but there has been plenty of pushback.  ✔ CHECK

TREAT ALL OPPOSITION AS "ENEMIES" -- Back in February, Trump tweeted that the press wasn't the enemy of the White House, but "the enemy of the American people".  (I guess also calling the press the "greatest threat to democracy" wasn't sufficient.)  On New Year's Eve, Trump tweeted: "Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do.  Love!"  Clearly, anyone or any entity who doesn't tow the line is an enemy to Donald Trump.  ✔ CHECK

APPOINTING FAMILY MEMBERS TO POSITIONS OF HIGH AUTHORITY / APPOINTING GENERALS INTO TOP CIVILIAN POSTS -- As I noted earlier, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is his Senior Adviser.  His daughter, Ivanka, who serves as Vice-President of Development and Acquisitions for the Trump Organization after the President allegedly "fully disconnected" from his businesses, has been attending key meetings without having any official position.  She now has a West Wing office with an official capacity of ... an adviser of some kind.  Retired General Michael Flynn was Trump's original pick for National Security Advisor; Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster was appointed after Flynn's firing.  Retired General James "Mad Dog" Mattis is the Secretary of Defense.  The Secretary of Homeland Security is retired Marine General John Kelly.  ✔ CHECK

KEEP PERSONAL FINANCES SECRET -- Even though the first two pages of the President's 2005 tax return were leaked earlier this year, he has not released any of his tax returns.
✔ CHECK

Terry

Part 2 Tomorrow

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Word of the Day: POLITICS

No doubt the title of today's entry got your attention, either in terms of sheer curiosity or in terms of sheer contempt.  It is a polarizing subject, and certainly no more so than now.  (It is often said that two topics you should not bring up in public, or at family gatherings, are religion and politics.)  Today, I would like to share my thoughts on politics, primarily American politics, and what I have learned and observed over many, many years.

It is safe to say that politics has always been contentious and, at times, divisive.  To a degree, that is unavoidable ... differing opinions on the nature of a problem or situation and differing opinions on how to deal with that problem or situation.  It can be argued that it is similar to any good story; there is an antagonist and a protagonist, or multiples of both.  There will always be disagreements.  There will always be perceptions of right versus wrong.  In recent history, however, those disagreements and perceptions have been escalated into good versus evil, even patriot versus traitor.  To that extent, politics has been degraded from differing ways to deal with things down to a divide-and-conquer conquest.  Again, with the nature of of politics in general, not every person will be satisfied with every action.  However, when you do any kind of dividing, proposals and actions simply cannot be intended for all, or to benefit as many persons as possible ... and when you do any kind of conquering, you are willing to ignore hurting people.  Mark that akin to "acceptable collateral damage".


Let us reach back to this country's past and bring it forward to today.  Mentions of our forefathers, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, great leaders, and how this country began have, in my opinion, been made into a kind of niche market.  They are mentioned in history classes, and as parts of speeches (both political and secular), and to stir up patriotic feelings on days like Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans' Day, and Flag Day.  Specific to the Constitution and political discourse, it is mentioned, far more than they have been, and particularly more so since we have entered the 2000's, as either screams for fairness or the proverbial sheep's clothing.  It has been made, by some, into a quaint asterisk that can be brought up when necessary.  Additionally, look at how that particular document has been scrutinized and picked at, like a scab, instead of being followed.  Is my argument that the Constitution had been rarely mentioned in politics prior to the twenty-first century?  No, but it has been turned into some sort of golden idol to covet or the flag in a game of Capture the Flag.


And does the question What would our founders think of us? really mean anything to the vast majority of those in power?  Seriously, does it?


Trust in government by the people, and here I mean any government, has never been, and never will be 100%.  There are times where the people are very much in favor of the government and times where they're not in favor.  Below is a historical snapshot of the average approval ratings of Congress from Gallup polls, beginning with 1974:

1974 - 37%
1975 - 32%
1976 - 24%
1977 - 36%
1978 - 29%
1979 - 19%        ('74-'79 avg.: 30%)
1980 - 25%
1981 - 38%
1982 - 29%
1983 - 33%
1986 - 42%
1987 - 42%
1988 - 42%
[no Gallup polls taken 1984, 1985, 1989]        (1980's avg.: 36%)
1990 - 26%
1991 - 36%
1992 - 18%
1993 - 25%
1994 - 25%
1995 - 34%
1996 - 35%
1997 - 36%
1998 - 47%
1999 - 42%        (1990's avg.: 32%)
2000 - 49%
2001 - 56%
2002 - 52%
2003 - 47%
2004 - 41%
2005 - 36%
2006 - 25%
2007 - 27%
2008 - 19%
2009 - 30%        (2000's avg.: 38%)
2010 - 19%
2011 - 17%
2012 - 15%
2013 - 14%
2014 - 15%
2015 - 16%
2016 - 17%
2017 (first week) - 19%        (2010's avg. so far: 17%)

The average ratings on this list were as high as 84% (following the attacks on September 11, 2001), and as low as 9% (following the partisan haggling over the debt ceiling crisis in 2013).  The reason for this low of a rating?  Politics as usual, that's why.

Then, there is the blurring of the lines with historically non-political entities getting involved in politics.  Let us start with the U.S. Supreme Court.  Can they make rulings that spill over into some political issues?  Certainly, but the Citizens United decision seven years ago (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) allowed our alleged democratic process to be disproportionately influenced by business interests.  In short, it allows big business to tilt, or perhaps buy, elections, and to now do so legally because businesses are people.  That means the idea of "one person, one vote" has been bastardized.  That is politics, not democracy.


Add to that the 2000 election, in which people supporting the Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to get the Florida recount, requested by the Democratic presidential candidate, Al Gore, stopped.  If it didn't change the outcome, let it play out.  If it did change the outcome, let it play out.  It wasn't allowed to play out, and yet, recounts are a part of the democratic process.  That, too, is politics, not democracy.


Along those lines, let us look at another entity and this last election.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), like the Supreme Court, is not a political entity, but its involvement in the election cannot be ignored.  To start, no presidential candidate from any party has been under FBI investigation before.  The Republican candidates used this fact as proof of how bad of a candidate Hillary Clinton was.  In July of 2016, FBI Director James Comey, while basically saying that Hillary Clinton screwed up big time, said that there would be no charges filed against her.  He noted that what information they had gathered was not enough to warrant pursuing charges and not enough to make a conviction likely.  Democrats were relieved; Republicans were angry.  Then, on October 28, James Comey announced that new E-mails were discovered and the investigation would be reopened pending review, adding that there may not be anything new.  (In hindsight, we could consider that last part as foreshadowing.)  This took place just eleven days before the election.  (Flip it back again to happy Republicans and unhappy Democrats.)  Comey's announcement that there was, in fact, nothing new found then came just two days before the election.  Did this sway last-minute, undecided voters?  It may well have, but the political damage was, nonetheless, done.  That was also politics, not a non-political investigation.


Let us look at those squarely in politics and the matter of trust.  Trust has always been key in politics for the public, but not so much for those in it.  Various scandals can bring down people in power, but some stay in power (or come back into power) with little to no legal repercussions.  This further enforces the view ... no, make that the reality that those with money and power can skirt legalities.  Go back in the history of practically any governmental body and the trust of those it governs goes in waves, but the trust in our government has been waning overall, while going up and down ... not just in the past decade-and-a-half or so, but for almost half a century.


August 2, 1964: the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which the destroyer ship USS Maddox was fired upon by Vietnamese torpedo boats.  August 4, 1964: the USS Maddox was fired upon a second time by Vietnamese forces.  August 7, 1964: the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed by Congress.  August 10, 1964: the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was enacted.  This is how we began the Vietnam War.  These were the facts presented to Congress and the American public.


Just one thing: the second attack on the USS Maddox never happened.  The United States entered a war on a false pretense, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dead and injured, and this fact was confirmed by then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara more than thirty years after the fact.  (Watch the film The Fog of War.)  It would seem the "hippies" (and some of the "squares") were, after all, correct in their dissent.


Next, to the 1970's, in which we not only dealt with the end of the Vietnam War, but also the Watergate scandal.  Republican operatives broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel to wire tap phones and steal documents.  President Nixon tried cover up the operation, while whether he knew about it ahead of time has never been determined.  The 1974 Watergate hearings, which I remember watching almost daily as a twelve-year-old, resulted in a number of Nixon's cabinet leaving as well as Nixon's own resignation that same year.


In the 1980's, we had the Iran-Contra Scandal,which almost destroyed President Reagan's administration, and raised the issue of sending money and/or armaments under the guise of "an enemy of my enemy is my friend".  That is not always true, and cannot be trusted as an absolute.  The meme below sums up my feelings on that topic:


In the 1990's, we had George H.W. Bush breaking his "read my lips" promise about no new taxes and the first Iraq War., as well as Bill Clinton's impeachment.  The early 2000's gave us all sorts of trust-breaking events, including how the 9/11 attacks were handled in their aftermath (including the "war on terror") and the banking fallout of 2008, causing the Great Recession, and resulting in citizens bailing out "too big to fail" banks and other financial institutions for mistakes those institutions made.  The 2010's have, so far, increased distrust in an obstructionist and "do nothing" Congress.  Even though the new Republican-led Senate and House of Representatives may get a lot more done in support of the Republican president, Donald Trump, what they do and how it will affect the country is still unknown.  In my view, it does not look good at all, if this first week on the job is any indication.

We can even turn abroad to Europe and look at the Brexit vote (Britain exiting the European Union) in June of last year, in which Google noted an increase in searches in England for "What is the European Union" after the vote.  Even though the country's Supreme Court ruled Parliament must have a say on the matter, the vote will stand, and it has, so far, and will continue to have, a negative effect on the Union, specifically whether or not other countries will want to stay or vote to leave.  Even though the voting public should have been more informed, granted, this is politics breeding instability, not politics doing the work of all people.


Politics is garbage.  A once-noble pursuit has been taken over for personal gain, business gain, and political gain, all at the expense of the American people.  The "affairs of the cities", as the definition of "politics" states, is now the affairs of the few, or the upper 1%.  It appears that the issue of trust regarding politics will continue to erode during the Trump administration.


Finally, let us look again at this past election and those at the forefront of it.  The final two major party candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were repeatedly described as the #1 and #2 most-disliked presidential candidates in history. throughout the campaign.  If that was true, then look at our country.  Look really hard at our country.  I know that the average John and Jane Q. Public do not have a chance at a major party nomination, but look at what those wealthy people put forward for nominees.  In the year 2016, for being so advanced from whence we came, the best that could be put forward were the top two most-hated candidates?  Choosing between the lesser of two evils is the umbrella under which politics has been couched for far too long.  We do not, and have not, chosen the candidate who we believe will be best for our country and who will the most good for the most people.  Now, they are known as evils and we get to choose the lesser of degree.


Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, a progressive leader in the U.S. Senate, said, after his campaign and the election ended, that people who shared his political and social views should get involved and run for office.  It does not matter what office, he stated, but getting involved, so that, in the future, if opportunities to run for higher positions in state or federal government arise, those people would be able to run for those positions.  Not an overnight fix, of course -- such is the nature of politics -- but clear steps in the right direction.


In his 1996 HBO special, 'Back in Town', the late comedian George Carlin stated the following about politicians:

        "It's what our system produces: garbage in garbage out.  If you have selfish,
        ignorant citizens, you are gonna get selfish, ignorant leaders.

        "Because if it's really just the fault of these politicians, then where are all the
        other bright people of conscience?  Where are all the bright, honest,
        intelligent Americans ready to step in and save the nation and lead the way?
        We don't have people like that in this country."
That is certainly how it seems, and has seemed, for a long time.  Or is it a case of those same bright, intelligent people of conscience feeling jaded to the point of resignation?  The latter may well be the case and Senator Sanders may have hit the nail on the head.

I believe our founders believed the Constitution was a "breathable" document.  That is to say, they recognized it, and the country, may stand for centuries afterward and it may need to be amended as time goes on.  That does not mean it should be treated, as it has been for the past 15-20 years as a "Void Where Prohibited" piece of paper.  Sadly, politics has done just that.


The U.S. Constitution, a key document in the Grand Experiment, should be the source, the guide, and the law of the land that politics should uphold in its work.  Instead, politics, too many times, rules over the Constitution and refers back to it as nothing more than a textbook appendix or bibliography.


Consider these questions very, very seriously: What would our founders think of us as a nation?  Would they be satisfied with what they see, or disheartened?  Does this America fall in line with what they envisioned or does it fall in line with from where they came?  And do you care?


Terry

Monday, January 2, 2017

Word of the Day: BETTER

2016 is finally over.  It has been a hard year, just looking at all those we lost.  It has also been an unexpected year as votes for Brexit and for Donald Trump for President of the United States proved.  It has been a sad year with terrorist attacks around the world.  It has been a lot-of-things kind of year, most of them unpleasant.  Here's hoping 2017 will be better.  Much better.

Today, I am sharing a classic song for the new year, Elvis Presley's 'If I Can Dream' from 1968.  Its lyrics are always relevant, but think they are more poignant after the year we've had and the year to which we're looking ahead.  Happy New Year, everyone!



Terry