Sunday, November 27, 2016

Disingenuous Surprise at the Trump Victory

Eager participants in the vilification of Hillary Clinton, mainstream media and myriad political pundits invited Trump’s surrogates to spread their lies; never thinking to correct them, even when they were clearly fabricating facts and making slanderous accusations.  Night after night, the campaign to destroy Hillary Clinton was aired on every station.
Their dismay at the results of the election is disingenuous.  Lies are not news. And yet they spread them willingly, throughout the campaign, responding to repeated slander as if it were nothing more than the considered opinions of the opposing party.
It was even more disingenuous to spend the next day trying to pin Trump’s victory on Clinton. What did she do wrong? How could she have done better? What was her fatal mistake? Shame on you.
Hillary Clinton fought a long and hard campaign. Donald Trump fabricated evidence and made false accusations. The question we need to be asking is: Why did that work? And while we are at it, we should also be asking the following questions:
Why is Hillary Clinton constantly accused of being responsible for ISIS and the Iraq War, when history has shown that both were a direct result of actions taken by Bush’s PNAC cronies; who mislead our country and destroyed Iraq, fertilizing the ground for ISIS?
Why is Hillary Clinton blamed for the inability of Congress to get things done for the past 30 years?
Why is she called a criminal, when after years of investigations and countless depositions, she has never been indicted?
Why are she and Obama blamed for the economic problems inherited by the Bush administration?
Why is it never mentioned that she was part of the team that found and killed Osama bin Laden?
Why is she consistently punished for her husband’s mistakes?
Hillary Clinton has been slandered by a lying, racist, sexist con-man and half the country believes she is actually a criminal, because Donald Trump said so.  It is clear at this point that there is only one thing ignorant white men hate more than a black president, it’s a female president.
Yet hating someone does not give you the right to co-opt mainstream media in order to persecute your opponent, without any evidence to support your claims. That is not freedom of speech, that is slander. And more to the point, why was the media so eager to join in that effort?
Here’s what I think: Hillary Clinton is an exceptional human being and her experience as a woman, mother, social servant, Senator, Secretary of State and First Lady gives her a comprehensive understanding of pretty much everything you need to know to be qualified for this job, not just from one perspective, but from every possible angle.  
The only thing wrong with Hillary Clinton is that there are too many men who can’t compete with her. She makes them look weak and lazy and stupid.  From their limited perspective, a woman is good for two things: making men look good or making men feel good. Hillary doesn’t do either.
So they do the only thing their intolerant and ignorant thinking permits: destroy her. There is no logical explanation for the treatment she has received at the hands of the public or the media unless you include the wide-spread but unspoken campaign to prevent women from being treated as equals at all levels in society. Women did not have the right to vote in this country until 1920, 50 years after black men won that right.  Like I said, the only thing ignorant white men fear more than a black leader is a powerful woman.

Kelleyanne's Next Step

Kelleyanne Conway is “personally concerned” about the grassroots supporters of Trump, who are unhappy with the idea of Romney as Secretary of State. She is now publicly stating her concerns.

I find this very interesting as I am not sure most of Trump's grassroots supporters pay much attention to who Secretary of State is. I have not seen any coverage of any protests about this. When I Googled it, all I could find was the article I’ve linked to above, and various repeats on mainstream media of Kellyanne Conway's’ claim that it’s happening.

So while I can’t find a single reporter’s coverage of this so-called “grassroots” movement, I do know that if we can all be convinced that it exists, and if Trump makes a big show of responding to this “movement” by dismissing Romney in order to assuage his public,Trump will have given his supporters "proof" that he is a man of his word, that he listens to them, that he will work on their behalf. And the beauty of this strategy is that he only has to prove it once.  

From that point forward, they will fall in line just as they did during the election. If something doesn’t sit well with them, they will simply point the finger at the nearest Democrats and blame them for it. Donald Trump will do whatever he wants and his people will never question him.

This is a replay of the strategy used throughout his campaign. Make a claim, manufacture “proof”, repeat it continuously and at every possible opportunity, and voila! for all practical purposes, it will become true.

This is the "winning temperament" in action: winning is all that matters, literally. 

Ms. Conway continues to manipulate the media into treating her nonsense as news, and the media will continually invite her to repeat it, without question; until it is no longer seen as the nonsense it is and the truth no longer matters.

Then when Donald Trump and his small team of dangerously unqualified and ignorant demagogues are running the show from the White House the media will spend their time finding ways to explain what the Democrats did wrong.

And everybody, well almost everybody, will be surprised that he’s getting away with it, once again.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Why Trump?

The question of the day seems to be how anybody (intelligent, good, thoughtful, grown-up, non-sexist, non-racist, willing to take personal responsibility, etc.) can possibly vote for Donald Trump. I have thus far believed that ignorance is the only possible excuse. But I am beginning to think I am wrong.
What if Trump supporters are not really answering the question about who would make the best President? Maybe they are just trying to send a message to the so-called political elite? Hmm. What message might that be?
How about: “FUCK YOU.”
Granted, the election is meant to result in a candidate who can actually do the job, not just expose the deep-seated anger felt by those who feel their government has failed them. And yes, their timing is a little awkward since we can’t resolve that issue by a single vote. But timing is not always convenient.
As much as we are supposed to be focused on choosing the next President, we are also supposed to be listening to the will of the people—all of them, not just the so-called Elite. And we haven’t done such a great job with that.
There are people in this country who lost everything during the economic crises of 2008. Entire life savings were depleted. Some of these people spent their careers making things we can’t live without, and suddenly their retirement is gone and they are sweeping floors at Starbucks, just to survive.
You can’t blame them for this – they were not nearly as foolish as the people Bernie Madoff bilked, because they weren’t asking for something ‘too good to be true’. They just believed our government would protect them from abuse by our own financial industry.  Is that really too much to ask?
When companies disappear from towns that literally sprung up around them, how are the people that lose their jobs supposed to survive?  Where should they go? What if are now underwater and they can’t sell/rent their home?  What if they don’t have the money to move? What if their parents are living with them and are too frail to be uprooted? Do the so-called “Elites” ever think about those people?  
Hillary needs to talk to them personally so she can demonstrate her understanding of their needs.  Instead, she calls them “deplorables” and talks around them rather than with them.
She is a representative of the current establishment. On their behalf, she needs to apologize for the Iraq War;  the various financial institutions that have failed us; the police who won’t go into cities they consider to be too violent, even though they know innocent people live and are trapped, without protection or hope.
Can you blame them for asking why we spend money helping people in other countries but ignore their needs?
These are people who have historically been dismissed as “ignorant or stupid”, they are tired of being side-lined in a country that brags about being a Democracy. They may not have spent their free time studying politics or government but that does not make them stupid or “deplorable.” They are still Americans, they need help, and we are not helping them. That is why they are voting for Trump.
The only way for them to consider the possibility that a veteran of the American Political System should be trusted with their future, is for Hillary Clinton to personally apologize on behalf of the entire American government, for having abandoned them in the past. 
Oh, and she needs to mean it.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

The Truth About Money

I’ve been watching Mr. Robot. I love that show. But they really trash the concept of money, and that bothers me, because money is not a problem. People are the problem.
Money is one the greatest inventions since the wheel. It’s right up there with the written language and the computer. Without money we’d all still be wandering around in animal skins looking for food. There would be no internet without money.
If we didn’t have money, every time you wanted eggs, you’d have to find the egg guy and give him something he wanted. If you didn’t have anything he wanted, you’d have to find someone who did. Then you would trade for that, then go back to the egg guy, and hope he still had eggs.
Of course, now that we have the internet, maybe you could go online to get a list of everything the egg guy needs. Let’s say he wants strawberries. You could probably find a bunch of people trading strawberries, but what if they don’t need anything you have? Maybe a lot of the strawberry guys are in the market for quinoa; so you look up the quinoa guys. Turns out that one of them wouldn’t mind a little medical grade marijuana. So, you find a list of bud tenders, and one of them just happens to have a handful of Blue Dream nuggets he’s willing to part with. He also just happens to want something that you have. There is just one small problem.
After you find someone who wants what you have, in order to get it from him (so he can give it to the quinoa guy, who can then give his quinoa to the strawberry guy, who can give his berries to the egg guy) how do you know how much pot you need to trade for the amount of quinoa that will get the number of berries that will buy the quantity of eggs you are looking for?
This is why we have money. (It’s also why we have math.)
Money is not evil, greed is evil. Greed is not inside money. Greed is inside people.  And contrary to Gordon Gekko, greed is NOT good.  The capitalistic system has failed, not because the system is flawed; it has failed because people have chosen to worship money at the expense of humanity.
Money does not choose to hire people overseas so companies can pay workers less than a living wage in the U.S. People do.
Money does not look the other way when handed a bribe, allowing criminal behavior to go unpunished. People do.
Money does not cheat on carbon emissions tests, so vehicles appear to meet clean-air standards when they do not. Money does not choose to use unsafe water sources to reduce costs. Money does not direct politicians to make side deals for perks, or lobbyists to push for agendas that are clearly not in the interests of the public. People do.
We are blaming an inanimate tool for the behavior of individuals. 
Millennials want to change the system. I feel you, but you don’t need to do that. Just put different people in charge. Seek out people whose moral compass doesn’t tempt them to cheat, lie, coerce, or take advantage of others, even if they can get away with it.
Vote for people who solve problems, not people who talk about it while benefiting from the very problems they purport to solve. (See Cash for Kids.) Demand that law enforcement officials pledge to seek out violations of this basic moral principle, and when found, remove the guilty from their positions of power.  
People before Profits. Violators will be removed from power. Period.
This needs to be the underlying theme behind all political appointments, if we want things to change in any substantial way.
We are entering a new age: The Age of Morality. We can longer afford to let what we are capable of determine what we do. We need to choose based on what we believe is right, not just possible; and we need to do it every day, in every situation. 
So when you vote, vote wisely.  Vote for the people who have a proven record of utilizing money to help people, rather than abusing people to make money. If you can’t find people who fit that requirement, run for office yourself, or recruit your friends. 
We need a sea change in our fundamental operating strategy. These things don’t come from changing the laws, as much as they come from changing mindsets.  As long as we continue to allow our country’s most powerful positions to be filled by those who put money above all else, we are lost.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Is it the System, or is it Us?

When this country was founded, we set up systems to protect individual rights. We were a bit backward then, thinking only men (correction: only white men) mattered, but the idea itself was good. Since then we've expanded those rights to people of all races, sexes, etc. Yet, we are still as divided as ever. Why? 

Millennials say the system is broken. I beg to differ. The system is fine; it's people who are broken. 

We've forgotten that while the free market can encourage enterprise, it can also encourage greed. We've chosen to ignore the obvious consequences of allowing financial institutions to recklessly speculate with our money. We've become insanely patriotic and, frankly, stupid about our preference for a particular presidential candidate, but seem almost unaware of who runs in our Senate and Congressional races. 

We stand idly by while our representatives enact legislation that is so lengthy, convoluted and packed with bulls*#t that the people voting on it can't take the time to actually read it. We think loyalty is more important than justice and money is more important than human life. We talk about wanting to curb gun violence, but nobody is targeting the mental health issues that lie at the center of most violent attacks. We cite statistics without context and spew venom without mercy, but say we are "the best country in the world." 

We think it's okay if Donald Trump knows nothing about government, sociology, history or psychology because he's rich! And even that appears to be largely trumped up--pun intended. His most recent biographer, David Cay Johnston says he makes his money selling his name rather than making anything of value, and his only talent is for taking advantage of others. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that he is nowhere near as wealthy as he claims. 

Donald Trump isn't a successful businessman, he's a successful con man; yet his supporters say that doesn't matter, because at least he's not a politician. At the same time, they say Hillary is not to be trusted because she is a career politician. She is being punished for spending her entire life in public service. Has she lied? Sure. Everybody does. Even you. But the bulk of Mrs. Clinton's work has been devoted to helping others. That's a fact. As for Donald Trump, lies are the bedrock upon which Donald Trump's entire success story is based. Yet, Hillary is the devil and Donald Trump is a savior.

Why? Because we use our opinions and feelings to make decisions while consistently refusing to look at facts. Hillary is not likable, they say. Well, I want to respect my President. I am not inviting her to a BBQ, I'm asking her to run this country. Yet Trump supporters seem to think that if they like somebody that's the same thing as vetting him/her. IT IS NOT! 

If millennials have any hope of securing their future and taking their place in the government of our future, they need to start boning up on history, civics, sociology and psychology. If they think the system is broken now, wait till they are holding the power and the only response they can offer to the world's problems is "it shouldn't be this way!"

In the old days, when I was in college, journalists were bound by the Edward R. Murrow School of Journalism. You were expected to research facts, understand history, present opposing views and do your utmost to acknowledge any bias when presenting the news. Now those rules have been completely forgotten. The news isn't about what's actually happened, it's about how people feel about things. We know longer care if something is true or not; if we feel that it is true, that's good enough. IT IS NOT!

Problems cannot be solved by feelings. They must be solved using a combination of facts and critical thinking skills. That means questioning everything and demanding that the news include facts and context, not just sensationalized accounts of specific incidents that affect a handful of people at most. 

I understand that a gunman shooting up a school is a horrific thing. I get that people feel solidarity with the victims and do not wish to minimize their pain. But how many people are actually affected by this, directly? Now ask yourself how many people are sick from lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan? That's a news worthy story, but it is already largely forgotten. Why? Because people want the dramatic and sensational. We don't actually care about each other, we care about taking sides and being right and making a scene to show how sympathetic we are. But the moment the hysteria dies down and the work of solving the problem begins, we move on to the next big drama. 

We have the systems in place to address these things. We can elect representatives in Congress and the Senate who actually believe that human life is more important than money; that honesty and humility are higher qualities than the ability to manipulate and bully; that information without context can be disastrous and that being rich does not make a person better, or smarter or nicer. In fact, it can easily do just the opposite. We can push for laws that prevent wealthy people from taking advantage of those without wealth and punish those who use their influence to manipulate others for their own gain. 

All this is possible with the system we have. Success does not depend on changing the system, it depends on changing our selves. That's the millennial challenge. I sure hope they're up for it. 

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Don't Ask; Don't Tell; Don't Learn

The problem with Don't Ask; Don't Tell is that is promotes a culture of denial. Anybody who tells you the military needs to be educated on how to deal with gays is missing the point. What the military needs is an addition to the Code of Conduct that specificies the following: Sexual activity does not belong on the battlefield, in training camps, on bivouac or on the front porch of a military dorm. It belongs in private rooms with closed doors. What goes on in there, as long as consenting adults are the only ones present, is nobody's business.

When I joined the Army in 1977, gays were not allowed in the military but sexual harrassment was rampant. Women in Basic Training completed the same requirements as the men in their Company. We lived in separate dorms, but the rigorous physical and firearms training was exactly the same for the women as it was for the men.

However, there was one significant difference: being female meant that we were constant targets of unwanted sexual attention. The form it took varied from snide remarks or taunting to physical forms of abuse. I experienced the former, not the latter, fortunately. Still, just knowing that every day I had to deal with the kind of juvenile sexual attention typically reserved for movies like American Pie was a little disappointing. Particularly, since I was supposedly working with the "creme de la creme" of the military (Signal Corps--top secret facility in West Germany--during the infamous "Cold War.")

Here's a sobering fact: According to NPR, “In 2003, a survey of female veterans found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving. And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed.” Here's the kicker: the assaults were not perpetrated by the enemy--most of these women were raped by fellow U.S. soldiers.

I left the military in 1981. Recently, I read that about 25% of our female soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq get urinary tract infections because they are afraid to go to the bathroom at night for fear of being raped by fellow soldiers. That is why I'm writing today.

We need a law, not a philosophical debate. We need to make it a violation of the Military Code of Conduct to be involved with ANYBODY'S sexuality unless invited. We need to codify the wrongness of men raping female soldiers as well as force homophobes in the military to keep their judgments against homosexuals to themselves. As long as sex is left where it belongs, both with regard to gays and women, we can work toward a functional military. That would be my holiday wish.

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Monday, October 04, 2010


Our nation seems confused by the issue of homosexuality. Even Lady Gaga, an outspoken proponent of gay rights, implies that there is a moral component to homosexuality when she asks that we “overlook the moral implications” of it. Unfortunately, she’s asking for the wrong thing: self-proclaimed saviors can’t overlook their beliefs any more than a gay man can think his way straight.

If we want to fight bigotry toward homosexuals, we have to stop letting heterosexuals define homosexuality as immoral. We have to demand that our legislators act based on information instead of superstition. Research tell us that homosexuality is the result of a combination of nature and nurture, just like everything else that is human. We should try to remember this.

NOTE: For the record, and for the benefit of the more imaginative and least educated reader, please understand that when we say “homosexuality” we are not talking about the sometimes bizarre sexual escapades of self-professed heterosexual men in isolation, nor do we refer to any kind of criminal or abusive behavior. These are not the hallmarks of homosexuality; they are the hallmarks of sexual perversion; they are not the same.

What we are talking about when we discuss homosexuality is the organic sexual attraction a person feels as a result of a combination of inborn characteristics and early childhood experiences. Accordingly, unless a crime or some kind of abuse is involved, homosexuals and heterosexuals alike should be allowed whatever sexual experience they, as consenting adults, prefer.

What we need to teach our children (and apparently a whole lot of adults as well) is that homosexuality is no more immoral than being left-handed instead of right-handed and bisexuals are no more evil than those born ambidextrous.

Perhaps our Puritan roots are responsible, but Americans seem simultaneously frightened and controlled by their sexuality. Instead of studying the subject with the understanding that it is natural, normal and healthy to be sexually active; we either treat it like a dirty little secret or go to the opposite extreme, publicly displaying our sexual prowess in a way that belies its inherently intimate nature: internet porn becomes an addiction and giving blow jobs, a competitive sport.

Meanwhile, our continued failure to fully educate our children regarding human sexuality has left too many with the mistaken belief that one must be exclusively masculine or totally feminine; any variation of these absolutes is cause for ridicule if not downright condemnation, or worse. This, despite the fact that sexuality appears to be a spectrum, not a set of two narrowly defined absolutes.

If we want to stop this madness, we need to change the nature of the discussion. At a recent fund raising luncheon in San Francisco, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who is actively fighting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was asked how we can make real progress toward Gay Rights. Her answer: “Stop talking about Gay Rights and start talking about Civil Rights.”

Nobody is asking anybody to change their beliefs; only that no one person or group’s extremely personal and subjective beliefs are allowed to strip another of their basic human rights: to choose to serve in the military and/or to marry and raise a family--however unorthodox that family may appear to some.

Lastly, for the “family values” crowd, let’s keep in mind that over-population has been blamed for just about every modern societal problem you can name. Mother Nature/God created homosexuals. Perhaps they have a message for us: The key to family values isn’t making babies, it’s taking care of them.

Homophobes are not taking a moral high ground when they tell you gays don’t deserve the same rights the rest of us do; they are merely advertising their ignorance, fear and lack of compassion. Instead of asking them to “overlook the moral implications” of homosexuality, we need to remind them that Homosexuality is not a moral issue.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Family Values

I heard today that Texas law enforcement agencies decided to cite "the law " as the reason for returning all those polygamist kids to their mommies. I am not surprised. It seemed absurd to me at the time that without a search warrant or evidence of a crime, the authorities were even allowed on the compound—let alone given permission to remove hundreds of children from their homes.

Not that I'm a fan of polygamy. On the contrary, I've read Under the Banner of Heaven, John Krakauer's chilling account of two fundamentalist LDS brothers whose so-called vision from God led them to murder their younger brother's wife and daughter. I was as horrified as the next person at both the murders and the multiple stories of sexual abuse perpetrated by fundamentalist "elders" documented therein. But here's what I'm having a bit of trouble with: no one is citing the extreme emotional and psychological abuse the women and children of these fundamental LDS churches are being subjected to.
Why focus solely on sexual abuse, which is difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute without the testimony of the victims? Why is no one concerned about the emotional/psychological abuse inherent in any organized cult that allows parents to literally imprison their offspring, prevent them from having contact with the outside world and require them to lie to authorities to protect their abusers? Any time a child is born into captivity and kept there, he/she is a victim of abuse. Why aren't we prosecuting them for that?

This behavior is well-documented and could easily provide the evidence needed to arrest fundamentalist perpetrators and rescue these children from their current family prisons. Yet the authorities focus solely on reported sexual abuses, for which they have no direct evidence. Hence, the debacle that recently ensued when dozens of children were uprooted, moved around and then returned to their unholy church--creating a major news event but bringing the abused children no closer to safety.

The only rationale I can find for failing to protect the children of the fundamentalist LDS Church from its elders, and it scares me to say it, is that our society still holds to the archaic and dangerous belief that children are the property of their parents. It is ironic to me that the same people who fight for the rights of an unborn child, seem oblivious to the rights of living children who are imprisoned by their own parents.

We have plenty of proof that over 400 children live in isolation and fear within the confines of fundamentalist camps. Yet Texas law enforcement officials saw no reason to rescue these children until they got a prank call reporting underage sex. Perhaps we should all stop looking for proof of sexual abuse and start working with what we can prove: polygamist fundamentalist sects that bring children into the world and force them to live in a confined environment, without any opportunity for self-development, self-expression or choice of living conditions, are abusive by nature. They should be outlawed. What's more, programs for debriefing their members should be created to assist the victims in learning to live in the real world, where each of us is free to decide how and where we live.

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