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Friday, September 23, 2016

TRUMP: the CON MAN (Part II)

HEADLINE: “Donald Trump releases list of supreme court nominees.  Back in March of 2013, when Trump was challenged by one of the other Republican candidates (Cruz?) he came up with a list of probable nominees to the Supreme Court that included several judges who are favorites of conservative legal scholars.  Several of the jurists previously clerked for conservative Supreme Court justices after law school. The state supreme court justices include one who was former clerk to Justice Scalia, and three of them clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas (the Donald’s favorite Justice). Another state supreme court justice on the list previously worked for the Bush White House’s office of faith-based initiatives and later in Texas government, where he pushed to keep a monument of the Ten Commandments on public property and the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, issues he has promoted on his Facebook page. 

Let us look a bit closer at some of the decisions and concepts promoted by just three of the possible nominees (for the sake of brevity), with thanks to ThinkProgress.com and People for the American Way for the following information:

·         backed voter ID laws

o   one helped uphold a restrictive Georgia voter ID law and joined one other judge in claiming that “racially disparate effects” should not be enough to prove a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the Supreme Court has ruled precisely the opposite.

o   dissented from a decision finding that a city had violated the Voting Rights Act by improperly diluting the voting strength of Native Americans

·         criticized not just women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade but even the constitutionality of the New Deal

·         wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that has been described as “the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law. 

·         showed anti-reproductive-choice views in providing a lenient sentence to two anti-abortion protesters who had to be forcibly removed from blocking the entrance to a Milwaukee abortion clinic and had previously been arrested 100 times for such offenses; this judge praised them for their “fine character” and expressed “respect” for the “ultimate goals” the blockade “sought to achieve.”

·         made the argument that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination. 

·         argued in favor of big business and against consumers and discrimination victims, tried to limit corporate liability for product defects and overturn a $1 million damages award; to protect a corporation from having to defend against an employee’s claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to reverse a $3.5 million bad faith judgment in favor of a Lutheran church against its insurance company.

·         asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though there was extensive evidence that one of the jurors did not understand English (including a statement from the juror himself), which disqualified him from serving on a jury under state law; 

·         that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years

·         that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional

·          favored a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.

·         wrote decisions that reversed an $8.1 million award to whistleblowers who helped bring a defective pricing and kickback claim against a large corporation and a nearly $19 million class action judgment against Tyson Foods for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

·         dissented from a number of Eighth Circuit rulings that have upheld the rights of employees, consumers and others against big business and government agencies;

o   In three separate cases, dissented from decisions that employees should at least get the chance to prove in court that their employers retaliated against them for filing sex harassment, age discrimination, or other discrimination claims. In two more decisions, argued in dissent that public employees should not have the opportunity to prove that they were retaliated against

·         dissented from a decision giving African-American shoppers the opportunity to prove discrimination claims against a large department store

·         dissented from rulings that gave individuals a chance to prove claims of use of excessive force and, in one case, that a city’s policy to use police dogs to bite and hold suspects without any warning was unconstitutional.  

IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO BE CLEAR ON THIS:  Trump as President, would have one Supreme Court vacancy to fill immediately that is now being held up by Senate Majority Leader McConnell on the premise that the new President, and not Barack Obama, should have the right to appoint Scalia’s successor.  Trump has clearly indicated that “he would draw from the most conservative segments of the judiciary to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court.”
If Trump is elected President, this will be his first nomination to the Court, but probably not his last.  In addition to the open seat left by Scalia, there are three current justices who are quite elderly. The next president could fill as many as four seats.  As a result, the nature of the Court could be “locked-in” for several generations; a Court that will have an ultra-right-wing majority bent on over-turning many of the decisions now extant that influence everyday life.  This will not only include over-turning Obamacare, but many programs like Medicare that provides some insurance and protection for a large group of citizens.  Such a Court will also be hell-bent on overturning certain civil and human rights that we now take for granted, such as the Violence Against Women Act, Roe v. Wade, Miranda, speedy trial, and much more.  Further, government programs for people who happen to be poor, underprivileged, handicapped, challenged, or in need of special consideration will, if not voided entirely, face restrictions that essentially change the nature and structure of any such programs.  

So, here’s the deal for all of the disgruntled unemployed and unskilled workers, blue and white collar workers, low wage earners, and all those who simply support Trump because they want their leader to be tough with everyone and everything:   YOU WILL GET WHAT YOU VOTE FOR!

NO MINIMUM WAGE and courts that won’t hear your complaint

NO NEW MANUFACTURING JOBS – they are permanently GONE and not coming back to any great extent, and any that do will soon be replaced by robots and electronics that can do those jobs more efficiently and at less cost per unit than YOU can.  Since Trump regards science negatively, and believes that human-caused climate change is a “hoax”, and that fossil fuels are our future, where does that leave YOU in terms of NEW JOBS coming on-line in the alternative fuels industry? 

NO ENHANCED SKILL TRAINING OR RE-TRAINING - the Donald has no plan for getting our workforce ready for a new techno-world.  Technology is taking over and Trump hasn’t a clue as to how YOU will be trained to meet the challenges.  Besides, practical application of technological advances promises increased corporate profit with fewer personnel costs, so how does an untrained or re-trained worker match up with that?

PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE NOT GOING TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS:  Trump wants to keep them under local control, and many local school boards think ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’ are dirty words.  Too many public schools are not prepared or equipped to meet the 21st century – not by curriculum, technology, teaching new work skills, emphasizing math and science, or teaching citizenship and its responsibilities, as well as its rights and freedoms.  Schools are caught in the 19th and 20th centuries, and have no inclination to change.  And, school choice which the Donald favors, will only denigrate and re-segregate our public educational system at a faster pace, since making education, research, learning and community internships dependent on profit does not benefit anyone but the profiteers. 
NOT to WORRY – the Donald will fix it right away by giving you the choice of sending your children to a private, for-profit school that costs an arm and a leg; to a charter school that cherry-picks the best students; or, you can keep your children in a public school that has been deserted by all those who could afford to send their progeny to a private (or charter) school.   By the way, you know what that means, right?  Higher taxes to pay for your children’s local public school plus having to pay for those private and charter school subsidies mandated from the federal tax coffers!  Nice Play, Shakespeare!  

NO SYMPATHY or DECISIVE ACTION WHEN BUSINESSES ABUSE YOU because this will be the BUSINESS PRESIDENT, and workers who join together to take their cases to court, will be shunted aside in favor of BUSINESS every time, and Trump’s Supreme Court will take that same side against YOU

EVERYTHING YOU HAVE COUNTED ON TO GET THROUGH IS IN JEOPARDY – including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, pension rights, adequate health care, unemployment insurance; even food stamps and Pell grants

LAW & ORDER will bring results YOU DO NOT WANT:  city curfews for whole neighborhoods, areas or communities; neighbors spying and snitching on neighbors; your home will no longer be your castle – your home will be able to be invaded by the police, even if it’s a mistake;  innocent people will be caught in police militarism to establish Law & Order; some people will be targeted for harassment, arrest, unreasonable charges and unfair sentences; YOU WILL BE ONE of THEM if you look or act or talk in a “foreign” or “different” manner, or happen to be dark-skinned.

THE WALL WILL NOT SOLVE THE UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEM – Illegal immigrants are not taking away your jobs (first jobs 'taken' by many illegal immigrants are so menial that most working Americans will not consider them).  Under Trump, Businesses will have all the privileges and subsidies and breaks applied to companies with those menial jobs.  Some businesses will be allowed to hire “temporary” aliens – unvetted, unscreened, unprotected, but useable for profit. 

COSTS OF MILITARY BUILD-UP will not simply fall to the wealthy – YOUR sons and daughters will be the FIRST to get the call to volunteer or face a draft; then YOU WILL ALSO HAVE TO PAY THE BILL for all those new unnecessary weapons systems; all the contractors’ over-time, excess time and failures; YOU WILL PAY, not those Businesses and wealthy CEOs who will be benefitting from your lack of consumer protection, lack of rights, and lack of power, as well as from the many tax breaks that only they can access.

YOU are going to PAY MORE IN TAXES to fund the WAR AGAINST ISIS and potentially against Middle East countries that are in turmoil like Syria and Libya; to say nothing about that country that D. Trump says has gotten so much out of the recent Treaty signed with us and several other countries (by which the advance of nuclear power is now restricted), but which Trump wants to renegotiate.  Trump has no idea what he is talking about, and YOU will bear the consequences when IRAN becomes belligerent.

LABOR UNIONS WILL BE OF LITTLE HELP to you because the restrictions already upheld and those that are still to come will cripple the Labor Movement beyond repair.  Just try negotiating with a business on your own and see how far you get in this pro-business climate.  Retaliation and firing-without-cause plus lower wages and lack of benefits will from now on be a normal part of what you will have to face wherever you may work.

CONSUMER PROTECTION and ADVOCACY ARE OUT THE WINDOW:  If you don’t catch-on soon, this will all come back to haunt you under ‘der Donald’ as President.  Remember EPA, OSHA, FTC, AAI, NLRB, FEC – and a myriad of others?  Well, these government-based consumer protection agencies have all been under attack when Republicans are in the White House, and some have never returned to the staffing and budgeting levels necessary for effective inspection and advocacy since the time of the great destroyer of consumer advocacy, Ronald Reagan.  Donald Trump will give them all the heave-ho if given the chance because he wants “interference” with financial interests and business interests to be minimized beyond their present status.  Beyond government, don’t forget that this attack has also been made on private consumer-based groups known for citizen advocacy – such as ACORN, Legal Aid, Planned Parenthood, and Community Action agencies.  Consumer advocacy is GOING, GOING, GOING – and under Trump --GONE!    

With a radical Republican President Trump, an ultra-right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, and a Congress controlled or obstructed by Tea Party ideologues, YOU ARE ABOUT TO WISH YOU HAD NEVER HEARD OF DONALD TRUMP.  Just as Ronald Reagan betrayed his union followers when he fired striking Air Traffic Controllers, Trump followers are about to be betrayed beyond their wildest fears.  THEY ARE ABOUT TO BE EATEN ALIVE by the forces of destruction, division, diminution, denigration, deregulation, distrust, demonization and demoralization. 
I tend, therefore, to pity those followers who believe that Donald Trump, once in office, will carry out every promise he has made to help particular groups of people.  Why do I say that?  Because he has constantly demonstrated in his life and in his work that his personal status, profit, power, prestige and winning are all that matter.  Equality and Justice, Charitableness and Service to others are not important to him unless they can be used as tools to CON others into following his lead.   Therefore, I end with a personal message to Trump supporters: 
 
YOU WILL LIVE TO REGRET YOUR SUPPORT OF TRUMP because his support ultimately means your downfall, and the probable deterioration of our economy, our daily existence, our democratic values and your livelihood.  This is my fervent plea -- Don't fall for the CON MAN'S Tricks -- Realize the potential danger you are in and CHANGE YOUR VOTE NOW!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

TRUMP: the CON MAN (Part I)

“The only thing we have to fear is FEAR itself!” A classic phrase from our Depression-tested and World War-embattled President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who made it clear that fear is one of the strongest motivators of the human spirit, and if we give in to it, we then have much to fear.  Right now, in this somewhat tumultuous time, I fear that too many of our citizens are caving in to exaggerated fears, and unwilling or unable to realize that a modicum of fear may be reasonable in some circumstances, but it is all-consuming in far too many instances. 
Some of the more reasonable fears are quite obvious – fear of unemployment, fear of not having enough to live on, fear of a life more daunting than expected  But there are many exaggerated fears as well – that some virus will spread like wildfire across our nation; that Muslims will institute Sharia Law in this country, that ISIS will attack us ‘right here in River City’; that the Russians will decide to invade or that N. Korea will start shooting missiles at the United States; that  a lone wolf terrorist will attack my particular home or neighborhood, that non-white people get all the breaks; that foreigners are taking away all the jobs and that we are all being ripped off every day by government. 

Both reasonable and exaggerated fears are currently gripping the hearts and souls of many of our countrymen and women.  That grip is so forceful that, for all practical purposes, rationality and common sense, hopefulness and charitableness have been thrown to the winds.  Instead, we find many simply wanting to allay their fears by trusting their present and their future to a self-aggrandizing con man who is using them to further his own ambitions, his own fortune, his own status within the billionaire class.  I fear they are pawns in a grand scheme to win the Presidency for a bigot, a liar, a cheater, a presumed “strong man.”   

That strong man is nothing but an actor in a fictional world, a con man attracting followers who are angry at their circumstances and therefore easily beguiled and fascinated by a “bad boy,” often described as a narcissist who uses others to get his way and to promote himself.  It’s easy to do – all you need is to mix together the ingredients of public fears and frustration with the characteristics of supposed success, doses of unreality, bravado, some nastiness and bullying, some outrageous concepts/proposals, and the supposed” strength” to stand up to everybody who wants to bring America down or to destroy what we have.  The ingredients mixed together give Donald Trump the ability to convince certain voters that he is the one person who can “fix it all.” Just such a smokescreen gives him the bravado to state that he knows more about how to destroy ISIS than the current generals do.  His unreality show provides him the cover to declare that he is the great deal maker and that he will remake several of the treaties and agreements that are already in effect to the benefit of this country.  His followers have granted him the ability to say that HE will make America Great Again!  

This is called the “cult of the authoritarian leader.”  It is not new; it is ancient and it is modern.  The cult of a leader who mimics “der fuehrer” is not outmoded.  All of the ingredients are there; it’s just that people refuse, or are without the capacity to recognize, that the same tactics that brought other fabricated dictatorial ultra-right-wing leaders to power are very much in our midst, and are being perpetrated upon the voters to win them over and to inspire their backing for the rise of a strongman leader and the demise of many of the principles of democracy. 

All of which leads me to ask one question of Donald Trump fans:

Q #1:  Just what do you expect to get out of his presidency?  I believe that many of the following are close to the answer. 

They expect a President who will:

  • know what to do about the economy so that jobs are brought back to America, plus preventing jobs from being lost overseas
  • inspire creation of an ‘atmosphere’ in which jobs will be created so that everyone who wants can end up making a living wage and enjoy the American Dream of affording a decent standard of living
  • keep foreigners out of this country so they do not take jobs that should be available to American citizens
  • negotiate (and re-negotiate) trade agreements that lead to advantages for American workers
  • not involve the US in foreign wars that are “none of our business” but simultaneously
  • rid us of the threat of ISIS by bombing the hell out of them
  • promote the superiority of rich and successful Americans; especially of white Americans
  •  undo the wrong direction which this country has taken by getting government off our backs:
    • repeal Obamacare
    • lower taxes, including those on the rich and corporations that keep our economy sluggish
    • reduce regulations that are detrimental to a free economy and are unnecessary burdens for state and local governments
    • get rid of entitlements like food stamps, Medicaid -- abolish them or let states run their own programs
    • allow personal accounts for Social Security so we can invest our own money
  • put America first in all things
  • re-establish Law & Order especially in the inner cities; re-introduce “stop and frisk” as a strategy
  • strengthen our military beyond belief so that we can remind others that we have the strongest and most heavily-armed nation in all the world
  • make America Great again!
So, if these are followers’ expectations of Donald Trump as President, then the question becomes:

Q #2:    What will Donald Trump actually provide the average follower when it gets right down to the nitty-gritty of doing something as President that actually puts into practice what he claims he will do while a candidate?  Well, sorry to say, I believe he will do just enough to maintain the support of about half of those who support him now.  This would mean about a 25% approval rating by the end of his imagined first term.  Here’s why I can predict such an outcome. 

Donald Trump’s modus operandi is not anywhere close to the guiding principles of justice or equality or even just plain charity for all that inform the values of this nation.  His guiding principles consist of:
  • taking full advantage of the little guy or those who are powerless to hurt him
  • engaging in practices that put his name in front of everyone so they cannot ignore it
  • always playing the system to his advantage: if the system gives you a gift – take as much as you can and then some more; if the system doesn’t have a law against it, take it to the limit. Use other people’s money whenever possible
  • always pay less than the actual cost – get it reduced anyway you can, including through the courts
  • be aggressive and assertive with everyone who has power; fawn over those who can profit you; belittle and insult anyone who is perceived as an attacker or detractor
  • take advantage of everyone who is powerless or challenged in some way
  • It’s all about profit; status; superiority; self-promotion and self-aggrandizement.  Everything else is for losers.  Real estate development is not for the faint-hearted and neither is leading a government. 
By way of illustration, let’s take a look at an interesting record accumulated by Mr. Trump  – some of the court cases that have piled up in Mr. Trump’s wake.   USA TODAY Network has an ongoing review of his empire's litigation , both by and against Donald Trump and his businesses, and claims that there are over 4,000 cases that have been filed in the past three decades.  It “includes companies that he owns and other involvements that are arms-reach arrangements in which he licenses his name or brand to other companies’ building or products.”

Generally, Trump’s cases fall into these categories: branding, politics, casinos, contract disputes, employment, his golf courses, government and taxes, media and defamation, personal injury and real estate.  The main point to be made about them, I think, is that Trump uses the law and the courts as an essential negotiation strategy or tool.  USA Today says: “Trump uses the lawsuits to negotiate throughout his business relationships. He turns to litigation to distance himself from failing projects that relied on the Trump brand. And he uses the legal system to haggle over his property bills and contracts with vendors.   Others who have filed against him generally have been attempting to right a wrong done by the Trump organization or by Trump himself.  USA Today puts it quite simply and forthrightly (any EMPHASES are mine): 

“Just since he announced his candidacy, at least 70 new cases have been filed, about evenly divided between lawsuits filed by him and his companies and those filed against them. And the records review found at least 50 civil lawsuits remained open even as he moved toward claiming the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Court documents were released in one of the most dramatic current cases, filed in California by former students accusing Trump University of fraudulent and misleading behavior. 

“The legal actions provide clues to the leadership style the billionaire businessman would bring to bear as commander in chief. He sometimes responds to even small disputes with overwhelming legal force. He doesn’t hesitate to deploy his wealth and legal firepower against adversaries with limited resources, such as homeowners. He sometimes refuses to pay real estate brokers, lawyers and other vendors. 

“As he campaigns, Trump often touts his skills as a negotiator. The analysis shows that lawsuits are one of his primary negotiating tools. He turns to litigation to distance himself from failing projects that relied on the Trump brand to secure investments. As USA TODAY previously reported, he also uses the legal system to haggle over his property tax bills. His companies have been involved in more than 100 tax disputes, and the New York State Department of Finance has obtained liens on Trump properties for unpaid tax bills at least three dozen times. 

“And despite his boasts on the campaign trail that he “never” settles lawsuits, for fear of encouraging more, he and his businesses have settled with plaintiffs in at least 100 cases reviewed by USA TODAY. Most involve people who say they were physically injured at Trump properties, with settlements that range as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

“Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, said in an interview that the number and tenor of the court cases is the “cost of doing business” and on par with other companies of a similar size. "I think we have far less litigation of companies of our size," he said. 

‘However, even by those measures, the number of cases in which Trump is involved is extraordinary. For comparison, USA TODAY analyzed the legal involvement for five top real-estate business executives. The analysis found Trump has been involved in more legal skirmishes than all five of the others — combined.” Let’s gather a few more relevant facts (again using information from USA TODAY): 

“A handful of the ongoing cases involve local or state government entities, with the possibility of personal legal disputes between the president of the United States and other branches of government if Trump is elected.  For instance, the Trump team has filed a lawsuit seeking a state ethics investigation of the New York attorney general. The suit was filed in response to an ongoing fraud investigation into Trump University by the attorney general, an elected state official.” 

And at a campaign rally in San Diego, Trump railed against a federal judge overseeing an ongoing lawsuit against Trump University. Trump said Judge Gonzalo Curiel "happens to be, we believe Mexican," and called him a "hater of Donald Trump" who "railroaded" him.” 

USA TODAY comment: “Trump’s history of legal actions provides clues about his style as a leader and manager. While he is quick to take credit for anything associated with his name, he is just as quick to distance himself from failures and to place responsibility on others. In one lawsuit — filed against him by condo owners who wanted their money back for a Fort Lauderdale condo that was never built — he testified in a sworn deposition: “Well, the word ‘developing,’ it doesn't mean that we're the developers.”

Now just take a moment and think about this:  if Donald Trump uses the court system as a strategy for promoting himself, an excuse for fraudulent behavior and a means for using power to charge officials with whatever, and also a tool by which he can intimidate those who owe him or sue him; if he plans to use the federal court system to harass, intimidate and bully others, including elected officials, are we not in danger of a breakdown of our entire legal system?  Are we not on the threshold of the Executive controlling the Judicial branch and using it for his own ends?  Are we not in the precarious position as citizens of being at the mercy of the central government to an extent not seen in our lifetimes?  Please indulge me for just one more piece to this nefarious scheme (find it in Part II)

Monday, September 12, 2016

WHO's SICK?

Donald Trump is a liar.  Donald Trump is a narcissist.  Donald Trump is unbalanced.  Donald Trump is a misogynist -- a shameless woman hater.  Donald Trump is a race baiter if not a race hater.  Donald Trump is a war-monger and threat to peace everywhere in the world.  Donald Trump is everything a President should not be.  You’ve certainly heard such terms applied to the Republican nominee for President.
The Donald’s latest attack on Hillary Clinton’s health, saying she does not have enough stamina to be President is just one more episode of personal attacks based on little or NO EVIDENCE.  And now we can add to his long list of lies (like the birther lie), that Trump is trying to make us believe that a woman – no, an older woman – does not have stamina.  His equating of age and gender with illness and lack of stamina is ageism and sexism at its worst.  And why won’t he release his own health records?  Because the Donald is probably hiding something that would make him look like a ‘sick old man’, and he couldn’t ever stand to be perceived in that way.  But it’s OK if Hillary is perceived as old and sick, because older women just aren’t worth a ‘bucket of spit” to him anyway.
Well, here’s some information that the Donald and his followers need to consider.
1)      Concussions take some time to heal.  So give Hillary, and football players, and workers without helmets, and athletes and a whole host of other affected people a break.  In Hillary’s case it looks like she may have ‘episodes’ stemming from that concussion, but her doctor says she is recovering.  It will take a while. Using such an incident as a means of ridicule and degradation and disqualification is despicable and shows what kind of President – what kind of non-feeling, insensitive PERSON -- Trump really is. 
       We have had many Presidents with health-related problems, both before and while they were in office.  Recovering from a concussion is not a disqualifier for Hillary or anyone else.  Nor apparently is Alzheimer’s for Reagan, Addison’s Disease for Kennedy, Polio for FDR (constantly held up and supported by aides or family members), stroke for Wilson, Graves’ Disease for H.W. Bush, or many ailments for Jackson, as well as some for Cleveland and Taft.  Let us just be a little more careful of accepting the premise that one simply can’t function as president with any kind of disorder, whether chronic or acute.  It is simply a false premise.
2)      Hillary is taking Coumadin to thin her blood and guard against blot clots in her legs and elsewhere.  I know what Coumadin does for you, because I take it too.  It is a wonderful drug, but it has side effects of which one must be aware.  But those effects can be tolerated - they do not disqualify or void anyone’s potential necessarily; they just are what they are.  If we start disqualifying office-seekers and office-holders for the drugs they take and the side effects they display but endure, then we are going to thin out the Congress, the Judiciary and the Executive branch in one big hurry!  Too bad we don’t know what the Donald takes for his daily dosages.  You can bet there’s something he doesn’t want the public to know. 
We Coumadin-takers put up with a lot of side effects, but they don’t disqualify us from being active, just as I am more active now in politics and community service than I ever was when I was half my age, and I’m older than Trump or Hillary.  I have experienced almost all the possible side effects of this drug and can understand what Hillary may be experiencing.  A little empathy please for those of us who have to put up with moderate to strong side effects.  It does take fortitude and stamina of which Hillary has an abundance, it seems to me.  I have experienced the same effects to which she seems to be adapting:  nausea, stomach cramps, muscle and joint pain sometimes making it difficult to maneuver, constant back pain, vision changes that include some loss of depth perception, slurred speech and occasional confusion. 
3)      In other words, Mr. Trump, often these medications are more potent than the malady they are meant to guard against.  We all know from ads on television that some drugs are so potent, they now have to advertise their equally potent side effects.  Get with it, Trump.  The medicine is more likely to cause Hillary’s episodes than any acute illness or disqualifying syndrome.  If you think it’s OK to denigrate and ridicule someone for the effects of medicines, why don’t you stop by this way sometime soon and I’ll demonstrate to you my stamina and strength.  I’ll even describe for you in detail the 3 days of 8 hours each during which my grandson and I did landscaping in the hottest, most humid weather of the summer (it included my hoisting over fifty 30 and 40-pound bags of landscaping stones and mulch before my grandson ever arrived).  Think you could handle that, plus the hoisting of large items into a dumpster as we cleaned out a garage and basement? – all of this with past open heart surgery, valve replacement, a pacemaker/defibrillator!  And Coumadin isn’t the only strong medicine I’m taking, so there are several more side effects that gnaw at me – like dizziness, loss of balance, and some lack of coordination – but I’m not done yet, and am more active than ever – and so is Hillary.  If you could just stop being misogynistic and stupid and narcissistic at the same time, there might be hope for you to become a positive human being.
4)      And try to give all of us New Yorkers with hay fever a break.  Hillary’s cough and wheezing and rough voice over the last few weeks could have been caused by pollen in the air, most likely ragweed.  This is hay fever season in New York, and Hillary is apparently quite allergic, as am I along with thousands of others!  I know what she is going through – and this season seems particularly problematic, most likely because of drought and dryness, plus strong winds carrying the pollen long distances.  
  
5)   Now she has been diagnosed with pneumonia.  One of my political activist friends is just recovering from it as we speak, and several others have caught this 'bug'. 
       People magazine reported facts that put a whole different light on Hillary's "illness:"
      
       "The illness that sickened Hillary Clinton with pneumonia and caused her to have to be escorted away from September 11 ceremonies in New York on Sunday also struck down several members of her campaign team at Clinton headquarters in Brooklyn, PEOPLE has learned.
       "Everyone's been sick," a campaign source tells PEOPLE. At the end of August, two weeks before Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia, a debilitating bug was making the rounds among staff at her headquarters and campaign aides who travel with Clinton, a source tells PEOPLE. At least half a dozen senior staff were felled, including campaign manager Robby Mook. Two top advisers even needed emergency medical treatment, the source says. One top adviser diagnosed at a Brooklyn urgent-care center with a respiratory infection was being treated with antibiotics in the days before Clinton's diagnosis. Another top adviser was taken by ambulance to the ER after collapsing from what turned out to be severe dehydration, the source said."
 
So here’s the deal Donald:  your accusations and innuendos and lies about Hillary’s health are maddening and irritating.   I know what she is going through because we are both dealing with some of the same maladies.  She isn’t chronically ill; she isn’t out of stamina; she isn’t unqualified to be president.  She just happens to be like many of the rest of us who run into things we can’t necessarily control, but we adapt and we move ahead.  She is no more sick than you are (of course your sickness has by some been termed as ‘mental’ which can often be more debilitating than physical ailments).  But that’s another whole story already addressed by others with greater professional training than I have in my background. 
It’s time for you to give up – if you can – your addiction to insults and lies and innuendoes.  How about giving us something for the wellness of our hearts and minds like empathy, sympathy, brotherhood and sisterhood, family values and caring for the underdog.  Or how about a dose of medicine of another kind – showing immigrants, and poorer folks, and members of minorities, the disabled and wounded - some human compassion instead of trying to separate them out and limit their possibilities.  Or, how about a modicum of respect for women, Muslims, Mexicans, and LGBT.  Maybe you could muster up a bit of extra help for veterans, children in poverty and for all those struggling to find jobs, feed their families adequately and to find resources for a quality education for their children.  Try occupying your time and ours with other than negatives, and “accentuate the positive” for a change. 
Sorry, didn’t mean to spoil your day with what you will probably regard as ‘na├»ve suggestions.’  But it’s fair pay-back for all the days and ways that you have spent making many of us miserable with your negativity and your narcissism.  It worries me that we may never fully recover from this ‘new normal’ in politics when an egotist like yourself can unashamedly defame and disrupt so many lives with lies, innuendoes, insults and slander, encourage followers to do the same, and still be considered as qualified to be the President of all of us.  You’re the one who presents as being sick.  Get some help!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The FUTURE is NOW!

This Labor Day weekend post contains some rather astonishing thoughts about the future, and what technology is already bringing into reality.  A technological revolution is already upon us and will develop probably faster than anything we have known in our lifetimes.  Unfortunately, that fact contains both good news and bad.  Because politicians mainly ignore the depths of this issue, I have tried to come down on the side of the news that is not being debated, discussed or acted upon by a do-nothing Congress. 
 
A book published this year, titled “PEOPLE GET READY: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy” by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, describes the future as being upon us already and that the technological revolution is going to surprise us not only because of its speed of development, but because we are not ready for it. “There is a very good possibility that automation is so different in degree as to be profoundly different in kind; that it poses unique problems for society by challenging patterns of work, education, manufacturing and distribution.” 
We have been told a lot of things by politicians, but much of it is classic bamboozling.  Several publications and writers have been trying to get at these issues, but I have chosen to make extensive use of People Get Ready because it is an excellent book about the digital age and automation, about technology and technological change.  But the real focus is on capitalism and politics, and on the "fundamental question of how to bring the rest of us into the process of shaping a future that cannot be well or wisely shaped by the CEOs and bankers and bottom-line speculators who are now calling the shots.”
The future is now.  Reuters informs us about something many may be reluctant to believe: driverless automobiles (or whatever we shall deign to call the new 21st century versions!).  You may well have heard already about installed sensors on some cars that prevent swerving into other lanes, or automatically apply brakes to prevent accidents.  But -- robots driving cars…?
“Uber is steering its driverless vehicle technology towards a crash between robots and jobs, unleashing driverless taxis in Pittsburgh. Putting computers instead of humans behind the wheel could save lives, but would automate a task that employs millions of U.S. workers. America’s safety net is ill-prepared for such a job-destroying juggernaut while dozens of companies are racing to develop driverless technology.
Boston Consulting Group has estimated that fully autonomous vehicles could reduce traffic accidents by 90 percent or more. That would avoid hundreds of billions of dollars of injuries, vehicle damage and lost productivity caused by traffic accidents, which kill more than 30,000 Americans each year.”
Did you know that there are already international conventions related to drone technology, legalities and sales?  I just learned that Central New York and the Mohawk Valley will host an international convention this fall that will attract hundreds of the world's top drone researchers from business, government and academia. The 2016 UTM Convention, which stands for Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management, will be held from Nov. 8 to 10. UTM is a comprehensive research effort led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA has been leading research into how to manage an expected boom in air traffic from the operation of low-altitude unmanned aerial systems, or drones, across the nation, and will be releasing findings from research it is currently conducting.
While drone deliveries of products to front doors are already happening experimentally, the future of this technological wonder is certainly almost boundless.  To put an exclamation point on the word “boundless”, consider this outrageous thought: such things as robotics, driverless cars, computers like Watson, and even 3D printing are all simply the warm-up act for what is to come in the next three decades!
 “Young men really are inserting grain-of-rice-sized microchips in their fingers in order to unlock doors and start cars – hoping that they will increase their employment prospects.  Fast-food restaurants really are taking orders with apps (‘centralized ordering systems’ that could ‘make cashiers redundant’) and preparing them with robots (‘automated kitchen equipment’).  Multinational corporations really are investing in global knowledge-sharing schemes that openly propose to replace universities and community colleges…with distance-learning ‘certificate’ programs that train workers for a task, not a career.” 
The authors of PEOPLE GET READY make it clear that we are “not in charge” of this revolution that is taking place.  It is a time of “power inequality”, where the “ability to determine what the future will look like and feel like and sound like and taste like is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.  Every decision about our lives that matters is being made by a corporate CEO or campaign donor or a programmer or a hacker or someone else we have never met.  The politicians themselves have become rubberstamps for the trade deals, tax rates, and deregulations demanded by an enriched and empowered one-tenth of one percent.  The rest of us are mere spectators.”
It is simply amazing what chronic “deniers” some politicians have come to be.  But denial may not be the only problem.   It appears that a large number of our so-called leaders are both deniers and procrastinators, depending on the prevailing winds at crucial times.  One thing is clear:  many of our representatives in government are simply failing to do the jobs to which they were elected and instead are carrying out missions that they have constructed for their own self-aggrandizement.  I do not exclude any political party from this scenario, but I find it hard to deny that the Republican Party is in power at every level, and upon them must be placed the major blame for the pending debacles: drastic, perhaps unbearable climate change, a crumbling and totally inadequate infrastructure, as well as the massive unemployment that will be caused by the technological revolution.
The deniers and procrastinators may well be putting us all in jeopardy by continually ‘assuring’ us, for instance, that climate change is but a passing ‘phase of nature.’  But, what if they are wrong?  Just to play it safe, shouldn’t our representatives, on behalf of their constituents, at least investigate the effects of all that is happening environmentally to the people they supposedly represent.  Denial and procrastination are bad enough, but the absolute ignoring of voter concerns and voter safety is the ultimate betrayal of representative democracy. 
It is my contention that way too many of our representatives (and office-seekers) do not represent anyone but their sponsors and their contributors, many of whom do not even reside in their districts.  Too many represent special business (or other) interests that are given priority before constituent needs are even considered.  There is one very potent reason why we have denial and procrastination running rampant in the Congress:  because democracy meant to work for ‘The People’ is now purposefully designed to serve business and industry and commerce, and the financial concerns of Wall Street bankers and financial managers.
It is variously estimated that there are, in our nation, millions of chronically unemployed; who have stopped looking for work, can’t find a job, or are in the process of accepting a non-working or part-time role, but they are not counted as part of the rate of unemployment.  We are told to blame manufacturing industries that have moved overseas, or an education system that is not training future employees for a changing economy, or too much government spending, or too little investment in the private sector. 
Whatever we are told by politicians, the whole truth is not being told.  For instance, has any politician impressed upon you that the rate of growth in American capitalism has been on a downward trend for a good five decades (50 years), and that this process has accelerated in this new century?  Have you heard that economists across the political spectrum now “speak openly of the U.S. economy as being in a period of long-term…stagnation?”  Indeed, it has been pointed out that private investment, “which is at the heart and soul of a capitalist economy has been declining as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.” 
It is virtually impossible for most of us to conceive of a society with extremely high unemployment, or of a society without enough jobs to employ everyone who qualifies, simply because we have come to believe certain axioms and myths that can potentially block our ability to deal with a new reality. 
Urged on by corporate public relations, these and other popular axioms and myths hold sway among the populace and they help define what people believe is good or bad about the economy, and about governance.  Here are a few examples of basic conservative beliefs that are promoted endlessly by the conservative elite, the conservative media and their conservative cronies in the Congress.
The American Dream – that anyone, given the chance or opportunity, can actually achieve wealth, position or status that is not so likely elsewhere. 
Or, how about the myth that if you follow the rules, make every effort to educate yourself, and work hard, that you will succeed in life? 
Or how about the ever-popular: hard work is good; leisure is bad (the ‘Devil’s playground’);
or, how about: government Welfare promotes dependence?  
Here are a few more “constructs” being used by the Right-wing to manipulate your vote and your wallet:
·         Government simply screws things up by an endless barrage of counterproductive regulations.  A ‘caged’ democracy with a limited mandate is best
·         Such regulations and ‘interference’ are often referred to as being ‘socialistic’ or even ‘communistic’ which expresses fear of the ‘masses’ long-held by the elite class.  It is why many elite throughout history have detested ‘democracy.’ 
·         To protect freedoms (particularly private property rights), to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, and to foster competitive markets is their idea of a limited mandate per the Constitution.  Anything more is fraught with danger and invites ‘tyranny’. 
·         Governance is best left to those who fully appreciate that the needs of investors come first and are foremost.  And that is most likely to happen if most everyone else tunes out politics and focuses on other matters, and worries about (real and imagined) threats like foreign countries, immigrants (especially Muslim immigrants), viruses, crime, and gay marriage.
·         Change, in general, should be seen as seasonal, temporary, cyclical, so don’t worry about it.  Just go on believing the myths, as corporations and CEOs want you to do, because it is to their advantage and profit to silence the voices of discontent, reform, or, God forbid, of revolution.  Support profit made from fossil fuels, hydro-fracking, and mining coal; dumping chemicals into air and water, making cars and trucks that produce limited miles per gallon, blame Obamacare for rising health costs instead of private insurance and drug companies, who all push the prices higher by manipulation of the governance and health care system.
·         Besides, if you stay out of the way and let the CEO’s run the ship, enough of those profits will ‘trickle down’ to you to enable you to live the “good life.”
Many of us fall willingly into this well-concealed and well-baited trap constructed by Corporate America.  Because of these strongly promoted myths, we are unprepared to face the dawning of a new era -- that of technological revolution.
Here now are some examples of what we are facing, due to our buy-in to conservative ideology, and to rapid advances in technology, most of which are being ignored by our congressional representatives, who prefer to investigate non-problems of their own making, such as ben Ghazi and Planned Parenthood:
  • “Capitalism as we know it and governance as we know it are ill-prepared to define the future in favor of humanity”
  • “The unemployment, poverty, and calamity resulting from the merger of the profit system with the coming wave of automation will be the defining issue of the coming decades, yet the “one and only time in American history that automation and employment were formally studied and considered by an official government commission was in 1964-1966 when President Johnson formally created the National Commission on Technology, Automation and Economic Progress to examine the issues and file a report” which it did in 1966.  The radical Right-wing Republican-controlled Congress of today has little or nothing but mythical axioms to offer on the matter. Donald Trump has declared that he loves such vast destructive possibilities because they open up many new opportunities for profit.
  • countless hard-edged business executives and boards of directors across the world are engaged in discussing the coming changes, not in terms of how human beings will be affected, but as “creative destruction” from which will emerge tremendous opportunities to cut costs and increase profits
  • “the transition to this new era will likely be marked by social upheaval the likes of which has only rarely been seen; an already troubling situation is about to get considerably worse”
  • A Harvard economist, Edward L. Glaeser, wrote a paper in 2014 in which he said that America’s most worrying social trend was the 40-year rise in the number and share of jobless adults.  But what comes next will be an explosion of automation that “will eliminate millions of additional jobs”
  • A broad assessment of unemployment, including people who are no longer seeking employment (the ‘hidden unemployed’) reveals that the employment situation is not simply a function of a short-term boom-and-bust business cycle, but instead a longer-term problem of stagnation in which recoveries after downturns now take longer and recessions grow more severe and longer-lasting.
  • The economy is generating fewer middle-class jobs and an increasing proportion of available jobs provide incomes at poverty levels (this is also a phenomenon across all sixteen EU nations)
  • Since the 1970’s, worker output has grown, in some cases sharply, but wages have stagnated
  • “The emerging automation wave that (some have) called attention to, is going to replace millions of jobs and alter the nature of many of those jobs that remain.  University of Pennsylvania sociologist Randall Collins expects an actual unemployment rate in the neighborhood of 50 percent.”  While such predictions strike the authors as somewhat extreme, at the very least, they say, “what is about to transpire is going to put severe downward pressure on wages and working conditions, which already are deplorable.”
  • At best, say the authors, “we can hope for ‘under-employment’ where men and women work part-time; accept jobs far below their skill level; or else undertake unskilled work of the sort traditionally assigned to immigrants.
Something our so-called leaders have also basically ignored, or have attempted to diminish, is essential to our future actions.  There is what the authors call a “democratic infrastructure” without which an advanced economy – no matter its particular construct – cannot exist.  “It involves the institutions, instruments and procedures provided by the state that render the use of democratic rights possible.”  This involves not only the right to vote, but all of the Bill of Rights, plus:
    • effective elections where there is genuine competition and one person-one vote is the order of the day 
    • stringent limits on money in politics
    • limits on the power of the Judiciary to act in an arbitrary and unaccountable manner
    • the ability to launch effective new parties or associations
    • free trade unions with effective collective bargaining
    • open, transparent governance
    • a credible, independent and uncensored free press/media
    • universal free schools with civic education
    • a basic level of social security, limited only by the overall productive capacity of the society
    • an environment that can sustain and nurture life
“When a democratic infrastructure is dynamic and growing, notions of fairness, justice, egalitarianism and public service are respected and widespread.  Trust increases.  Provocative new ideas are put in play and subject to debate. 
When the democratic infrastructure is weak or in decline, the political culture shrivels, self-interest reigns, and demoralization and pessimism ascend.  After four decades of relentless attack on the democratic infrastructure, it has severely shrunk in the United States today, and much of what remains is in jeopardy… aggravated by a pathetic and corrupt political response.  It is here, on this battlefield…that the outcome will determine whose future it will be…
It is where those concerned about how America responds to the jobs crisis we are facing must turn their attention.  In a time of crisis, it means everything.”
And so we come to the major reason why denial and procrastination, reluctance to problem-solve and the overall tendency to protect business enterprises prevail -- We no longer possess a representative democracy.  We now possess a protective, industrial-financial oriented plutocracy that exists for very different reasons than originally envisioned in the ‘democratic infrastructure.’.  Instead, conservative mythology has taken over and placed all of us in jeopardy as we face the present and emerging future because they believe:
“The main job of governance is to make sure that the profit system works smoothly, contracts and private property are respected and enforced, the dispossessed are kept in line, and, if there is an economic crisis, the government intervenes as necessary to make it lucrative for businesses and wealthy individuals to invest again.  Big government is A-OK when it advances the interests of capital… small government is the order of the day.  Governance is best when it is left to those who fully appreciate that the needs of investors come first and foremost.  And that is most likely to happen if most everyone else tunes out politics and focuses on other matters.” The Plutocracy generally endorses this conservative viewpoint and works at all governmental levels to exert its influence to bring their concerns, and this pro-business ideology, to the forefront of governance.”
According to the authors, “The one thing Americans are in overwhelming agreement on, in poll after poll and election result after election result, is that neither major party has a plan for the future.” While Pope Francis counsels that ‘contemporary man has not been trained to use power well,’ few political figures have thought deeply enough about the issues to recognize, as the Pope did in his 2015 encyclical, that ‘our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience’.”
The book’s Introduction concludes: “We the people are the only force that can make a future worthy of our hopes and our humanity.  And our tool is the only tool that has ever taken the power to define the future away from the elites and given it to the whole of humanity: democracy.” 
The point is to shape progress, not as customers or consumers, not as clicks to be counted or employees struggling to synch ourselves into automated workplaces, but as citizens engaged in a democratic process of organizing a new economy that reflects our values and our needs.”  The purposes of Labor Day demand no less. Our future destiny demands further exploration of what can be done by government to advance not just industries, but human values, responsibility and involvement.