Trump Cheats

LEON NEAL

Trump Cheats

Running against Trump is not a fate I would wish for anyone. I wish the candidate who wins the Democratic primary  did not have to run against this nasty piece-of-enigma. Trump cheats. Trump’s behavior is not limited by rules. He sneers at rules. Rules are for chumps. And he has been able to get away with breaking the rules for so long that he believes he is invincible. I am worried that his unfounded confidence makes it almost impossible to discover his “kryptonite”.

He has the Senate in his corner. Cynical Republicans in Congress have wholeheartedly embraced this criminal bottom feeder hiding in the oval office because he makes them think that he (and therefore they) will keep mysteriously winning. For now the winning is all too real. But the winning is real because Trump cheats. The Republican Party has also been doing a lot of cheating. If there are no moral rules, no philosophical stops, no conscience, and no guilt you can use any tactics against your opponents. If your opponents are determined to uphold some principles (as in this case the Democrats are)  then the probability of beating them goes way up because Trump and the Republicans can just use lots of no-holds-barred politics and violate the Constitution they have pledged to uphold, and there you have it.

How Does Trump Cheat?

How does Trump cheat you may well ask. Trump began cheating even while campaigning and we watched him do it but we could never prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Being negative about an opponent is considered quite acceptable in an election although voters are always moaning about how they hate negative ads. Finding your opponents past impurities and exaggerating them is AOK.

But I believe there is a difference between airing someone’s past political inconsistencies and totally demonizing someone. The kinds of conspiracy theories that turn a fairly normal Secretary of State and grandmother into someone who finds children for child predators and eats babies, stories which circulated about Hillary, goes beyond the pale. Why people like to believe these products of someone’s overactive imagination is tough to understand until you realize how many times these stories are repeated and called to the attention of people who also happen to be voters. But someone believed it so well that he took a long gun to a DC pizza parlor to bust up the trafficking operation that was supposedly going on in the basement of the establishment.

The numbers in the elections were not on Trump’s side when he began campaigning. Hillary had the electoral college threshold within reach; every poll said so. However several events occurred in the final months of the campaign. Videos started to appear on social media that claimed that Hillary was sick and even dying. Trump began this attack on Hillary’s health, although he had no actual medical data to back up his remarks. And of course, Hillary actually did have a fairly serious case of pneumonia. Campaigning is hard work. She let herself get run down, but she was certainly not dying.

I don’t remember when another candidate in an election has “owned” a whole television news channel dedicated day and night to putting a single political party into office by playing on the grievances of some American voters. Fox “News” may have backed the Republican Party but it soon became the channel of Trump.

The time line is important-notice proximity to the election:

Someone at the FBI found Hillary emails on Andrew Weiner’s laptop and that refreshed the ire about Hillary’s use of a private server. Her assistant, Huma Abedin, a Muslim, it was suggested, may have leaked classified materials to her estranged husband’s laptop with sinister intent (something, something terrorists). (Huma Abedin was born in Kalamazoo, MI).

  • On July 5, 2016, former FBI Director James Comey announced that the bureau would recommend that charges not be filed in the probe into Clinton’s use of a private email system while heading the State Department.
  • On Sept. 26, 2016, the FBI executed a search warrant on former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s iPhone, iPad and laptop computer, and discovered 141,000 emails on the laptop that were potentially relevant to the FBI’s closed investigation of Clinton. Longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin was married to Weiner at the time. (Abedin’s lawyer said early this year the couple was privately finalizing their divorce.) Weiner was being separately investigated for “sexting” with an underage teenage girl.
  • A month later, on Oct. 28, 2016, Comey told lawmakers in a letter that the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” and that investigators would “review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information.”
  • On Nov. 6, 2016, Comey told Congress in a follow-up memo that the FBI had “reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State” and that officials “have not changed our conclusions.”
  • The election took place Nov. 8, 2016.

https://www.factcheck.org/2018/08/clintons-emails-weiners-laptop-and-a-falsehood/

It is highly unlikely that Trump initiated this FBI timeline but he certainly used it to full advantage with plenty of innuendo and “rigged” election speech. But clearly the timing of this FBI announcement was very suspicious. However it is also highly unlikely that Comey was in cahoots with Trump, although I suppose someone may have tipped the FBI off about the emails on Weiner’s computer, and we have had no reporting about who that might have been.

The Access Hollywood tapes were aired on October 7, 2016 and things looked bad for Trump for a while. But Trump’s friend Roger Stone seems to have signaled for the Wikileaks dumps to begin an hour later. Why did Trump command such loyalty from so many influential, but shady men? Why did some Americans want a man like Trump to be President? Why did the American people want a president whose elections tactics seemed so underhanded? Again a 24/7 news outlet, which was able to spin everything in favor of a man who turned an election into a mafia movie, had an enormous effect as it ginned up the angers that talk radio hosts had spent a decade implanting in American brains.

Isaac Stanley-Becker, The Washington Post • January 29, 2019 10:31 am
Updated: January 29, 2019 10:31 am

“The revelation in The Washington Post of a tape of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women landed just after 4 p.m. on Oct. 7, 2016.

Less than an hour later, WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy organization founded by Julian Assange, began releasing hacked emails from the account of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.”

https://bangordailynews.com/2019/01/29/national-politics/roger-stone-wanted-wikileaks-dump-to-distract-from-access-hollywood-tape-mueller-witness-says/

Many things happened to help Trump win the 2016 election that he had no control over. But he certainly responded to negative information very quickly using distraction to great advantage. There is still all the Russia interference in the election that followed Trump’s tacit statement of permission for Russia to jump into the mix.

“Russian officials began to target email addresses associated with Hillary Clinton’s personal and campaign offices “on or around” the same day Donald Trump called on Russia to find emails that were missing from her personal server, according to a new indictment from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing, I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said in a July 27, 2016 news conference…

After the July, 2016 news conference, critics slammed Trump for apparently encouraging foreign actors to steal information from his opponent. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity and a matter of politics to being a national security issue,” the Clinton campaign said in a statement after Trump’s remarks…

Mueller’s indictment details a sophisticated, large-scale hacking effort by 12 Russian officers to interfere with the 2016 elections by stealing documents from private servers and staging their release through fake online personas, such as Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.

In all, the Russian officials and their co-conspirators targeted more than 300 people associated with the Clinton campaign and other Democratic Party organizations starting in March 2016, the indictment says.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said no Americans knew they were communicating with Russians in this indictment and he had no evidence that the outcome of the election was affected.”

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/trump-asked-russia-to-find-clintons-emails-on-or-around-the-same-day-russians-targeted-her-accounts

Rob Rosenstein had no evidence that the election was not affected either.

I have never heard a candidate who wished to be the President of America ask Russia to help them do anything or learned that so many, or indeed any contacts, took place between a campaign and Russians. Here is another tactic that seems absolutely beyond the pale, except this particular man knows how to get others to cheat for him so it is almost impossible to pin anything underhanded on him. We know he cheats, we can see him doing it, but we cannot prove it.

How Barr turned the Mueller Report into a Fiasco

When a special investigator was finally appointed, it took Mueller almost 2 years to conduct an investigation. Throughout those 2 years we heard Trump address Mueller constantly, using a bullhorn to make sure everyone could hear him say that he is not guilty, which made us suspect all the more that he is very guilty. Trump managed to put an attorney general in place just before the investigation ended who believes, according to a document he produced, in the absolute power of the President.

With the acceptance of William Barr to be the AG we the people were screwed. We suspect Barr called a halt to the investigation; we know he commandeered the official report and handed out a less-than-adequate summary of the contents of the report. Although he later gave people (voters) access to a heavily redacted version of the report he did this only after the fake verdict had already had time to set in. The majority leader in the Senate who does whatever Trump asks and nothing more has declared the case closed.

Trump has defied the House of Representatives and the Constitution by refusing to cooperate in any way with House investigations. He has ignored subpoenas; has told all his peeps to ignore subpoenas. And there we are, where we stand right now with our cheater-in-chief and an election looming. I do not believe there is one Democratic candidate willing to cheat the way Trump has, with no respect for the rule of law or even the rules of political warfare. Trump cheats bigly.

How do Republicans cheat?

How do the Republicans cheat? The Republicans cheat by messing with votes, Democratic Party votes. Statistics show exactly who votes for Democrats so it is an easy matter to target them with a flurry of annoying tactics, each of which must be discovered and defused. These attacks on voters are so numerous and enacted at such local levels that it is difficult to overturn each and every one before a given election day. Our elections, which I used to feel were very well run, protected by the (now toothless) Voters Rights Act which were mostly fair and free, are beginning to seem like beleaguered mine fields of purged voter rolls, gerrymandered districts, polling places that keep getting cut and cuts in the number of voting days, Russian hackers, and any other thing some Republican comes up with. It is always Republicans trying to suppress Democratic votes. There is no evidence that Democrats have tried to suppress Republican votes and that is because Dems have not been doing that. Republicans have been cheating for decades.

Holding an election in such a chaotic landscape fills me with dread that we are doomed to four more years of Donald Trump because he and his people are willing to cheat to win and the Democrats are not. And cheaters seem to be winning these days. It doesn’t seem like it should be like that. You would think voters would not vote for cheaters. Will this election have any oversight?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search; CNN.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump “Punches” Women

Trump is a counterpuncher. He is proud of this and he warns us about his vengeful nature all of the time. Gender doesn’t matter. Trump counterpunches women also. Because Nancy Pelosi landed several punches to the Trump ego she has attracted the schoolyard ire of the Trump. What did she do to deserve being punched? Well she mentioned the “I” word, which, we surmise, must stand for impeachment. She said he (He) was engaged in a “cover up”. Then she said she would pray for the president implying that he has difficulties that require our prayerful attentions. And furthermore she told Donald’s family that they needed to organize an intervention, presumably to address the mental health of the president.

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/05/23/pelosi_after_temper_tantrum_trump_needs_an_intervention.html

These were fairly audacious remarks perhaps designed to provoke someone with Trump’s narcissistic personality characteristics. And they worked. He may have had all his people claim that he was very calm (a ridiculous strategy that could only look creepy) but his state of mind seemed more like a volcano close to blowing its top off. When Trump is steamed at one person, he retaliates.

If that person is a woman he acts a lot like Phillip Stucky in Pretty Woman when Vivian forgets she’s a prostitute and lets Stucky know she finds him disgusting.

Trump punches figuratively, he endorses doctored videos that make Nancy Pelosi look drunk or perhaps mid-stroke and he says she is not the same, something is wrong (just like he did when he attacked Hillary by implying that she had a dire terminal disease that would affect her mental capacities). Demonizing women has become almost a full-time tactic for Republicans and Trump is the penultimate Republican (who would have thought).

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/24/us/politics/pelosi-doctored-video.html

https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/24/18637771/nancy-pelosi-congress-deepfake-video-facebook-twitter-youtube

Although Nancy Pelosi’s comments to the press were less than smoothly delivered the fake videos exaggerate those flaws to make them look ominous and to crush any power she might have to sway public opinion. Facebook has declined to remove these videos because of free speech concerns so we will see how gullible Americans actually are or how far they are immersed in the cult of Trump.

If Nancy Pelosi persists, as we know Democratic women do, will Trump be unable to hold on to the appearance of keeping his temper? Will steam start to come out of his ears? Too bad cartoon effects don’t actually occur in real life. Will his temper tantrum come with redder face (is that possible) and balled fists and rising to his tippy toes? Will the memes of internet trolling coming from Trump staff and cult members escalate to ever greater heights of hyperbolic dishonesty? Or does a tiny grandmother know exactly the ways to sideline an unruly child?

Photo credit: From a Google Image Search – New York Post

 

The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates – Book

When I post on Linkedin.com I often see posts from Bill Gates. Lately it seemed that he kept trying to get me (yes me personally ha-ha) to read The Moment of Lift, a recently published book by his wife Melinda Gates. Sometimes I leave billionaires out of my personal pursuits because their lives are so distant from mine that they don’t really feel like real people. It is exclusionary but I always figure they don’t really mind because it doesn’t impact their lives in any negative way and I am not real to them either. But prejudice in any form is probably not good for the soul and billionaires who are also philanthropists, trying to make life better in some way for all us on this tiny planet at the edge of this universe deserve some attention, even if it is just to see whether or not they are just making huge cosmic errors out of misguided arrogance. Now I am being arrogant. Anyway I read Mrs. Gates’ book and it really did give me a moment of lift, in fact more than one moment. When people use their huge fortunes to make a difference for people at the bottom of the economic heap it makes the inequalities of our current economy seem less obscene. And their experiences can teach us about realities in places we can’t afford to go.

I was deep into Chapter 3 of Gates’ book when Alabama decided to make abortion illegal in that state except in rare cases for the health of the mother. Melinda Gates was talking about the effect of women’s lack of control over their reproductive health and what a profound effect that has on the success of an entire family and even the village in which the family lives. If a women gets pregnant many times with little space in between it means she can’t pay proper attention to each child so the children often do not thrive. Infant mortality rates are really high in such cultures and the family is not able to progress, to send the children to school, to grow more crops or work harder to save money and the family does not thrive either. Generation after generation this is a reality that keeps families poor.

Gates was working in Africa and Asia, in countries where these patterns are very noticeable and small efforts can make a big difference. She began with finding ways to provide free vaccines to children. But she found that the mothers were begging to get regular access to contraceptives so they did not wear themselves out having baby after baby. Access to contraceptives is not something you might think would have such profound positive outcomes wherever it is available, but evidence shows us that it does.

So I cheated a bit and made use of Melinda’s new book to try to drum up readers for my recent blog post “Alabama and Melinda Gates” because I wanted to shine a light on what is happening with Roe v Wade.

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/alabama-and-melinda-gates/

Melinda Gates is a very spiritual person. She is a devout Catholic who completed her college degrees at a Catholic college. But she is not a missionary. If she was about the business of spreading Catholicism she might not be so open to listening to women in the African and Asian places she visits, she might care more about fulfilling her own needs than the needs of the people she meets. However she has learned to let socially active people she meets at conferences and in her travels, people who know where to look in Africa and India to enlist the Foundation’s help for programs that already exist. These people become her mentors and they take her with them to meet the village people and see programs that are successfully allowing poor people around the world to have a future that is not simply a repeat of the lives people in that area have lived for generations, lives that can’t plan ahead, lives that can only get through each day and sometimes not even that.

There is no sense in talking about this as a work of literature. It is not intended to be considered in that way. But the book made me aware that not all billionaires are selfish people sailing around on yachts, drinking and dining at swanky restaurants, or building survival dwellings in isolated places. It gave me a lift to learn about the intimate problems of women on other continents (although we certainly have some of these problems on our own continent) and to hear about programs that were trying to lighten women’s loads and free them up to enjoy feeling that they could make personal contributions to their families and their culture, that life did not have to be drudgery and heartache or full of repetitive and difficult tasks that wear down the spirit.

So you might find that you also get to experience some of The Moments of Lift that Melinda Gates offers in her book if you spend a few days immersed in the life of the wife of a billionaire. One more point – just because this book is mostly about the things women face does not mean that men should not read Gates’ book. Perhaps they need to hear about these issues even more that women do. Many women’s lives are still under the control of men, and men’s lives also change for the better when women become partners rather than property.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Goodreads

 

 

Don McGahn, Trump, Congress and the Constitution

Don McGahn, Trump, Congress and the Constitution -Not about the 2020 Election or the Democrats.

Today Don McGahn, who used to be White House Counsel in the Trump White House, did not answer a subpoena to appear before the Judicial Committee in the House of Representatives. The drumbeat for impeachment grew louder. Republican Senator Chris Collins gave an impassioned speech which basically accused the House Dems of playing politics. Well, he ought to know because that is exactly what Mr. Collins is doing. If Mr. Collins was upholding the oath he took to defend and protect the US Constitution he would not be backing Donald Trump, nor would he favor the defiance of any subpoena issued by Congress. He would be insisting that we all hear the testimony of Don McGahn.

We have laws. We have a Constitution. We have traditions. Congress has a long history of investigating government officials, both appointed and elected, even Presidents. The powers of Congress are listed in Article 1 of the Constitution, ahead of the powers of the Executive Branch. The people come first. The president serves at the will of the people. (A cynical ha-ha here is perfectly acceptable). Since the 2020 election began really early it is easy to make an argument that Democrats are just playing to their base whether that is actually the case or not. After all that is what the Republicans do every day.

Trump is doing two things at once, surprise, surprise. He definitely has political motives. But he also is making a constitutional argument based on some imaginary document that only exists in his mind, backed up by a legal opinion that was never voted into law, filed on an obscure piece of paper somewhere in the Justice Department. He is arguing that Congress should not have the powers that they have, that they should not have been able to investigate or impeach Nixon, and that the executive has absolute immunity from investigation and from indictment. He argues that Congress cannot impeach a President. This is a power grab.

These House investigations are not important because they might help Democrats get elected in 2020 and everyone who is paying attention knows that. These struggles between Democrats on one side and the President, the Department of Justice (not a branch of government) and the Republicans in Congress on the other side are about the distribution of power in our government, who has it, how much power each branch or agency has, and what that power allows, or requires, them to do. If Trump wins he will change the balance of powers in our government forever, and that will change the entire design of our constitutional government (rewritten by a man who doesn’t even like to read).

Trump, for his own personal reasons, wants an executive branch that consists of an all-powerful executive backed by a DOJ that makes a president basically above all the laws of the land, including those described in the Constitution or devolved through tradition. A president could not be checked by any other branch of government, or the DOJ, or any political action by voters – untouchable, defined in a whole new way.

Why does DT want all this power? Since we can’t see the evidence in the Mueller report, or even the many redacted sections of the Mueller report, and we can’t hear anyone testify in Congress for the most part we can only guess about the reasons. Perhaps the liar-in-chief who seems to have a lot of nearly criminal or actually criminal baggage has so much to hide that he doesn’t mind changing the whole balance of power so that he can operate unchecked by anyone.

He says he wants to make the Presidency more powerful because that will benefit future presidents. Donald Trump does not do things for others. He is not an altruistic type of guy. If he is fighting for an all-powerful executive branch he is doing it for himself. As long as he is president he cannot be indicted. Perhaps he actually does want to be president-for-life also, which would not only change the powers as defined in the Constitution, it would signal the end of our Democracy/Republic. Our Congress would exist then only for purposes of making a show of democracy. The grand experiment of our forefathers would be finished. Historical evidence suggests that democracies do not have a long shelf life, perhaps about 250 years (which is about where we are right now) but we all felt that our democracy would be able to beat the odds, which are based on only a few examples.

Why don’t the Republicans protect the documents they are sworn to protect and defend? The Republicans are playing their own game but since Trump will get them where they want to go they are along for the ride. The Republicans seems to be involved in their own rewrite of our United States government. They are possibly trying to resurrect the CSA, only this time it will be the Conservative States of American, rather than the Confederate States of America. But in their hearts it will finally be victory in a war that never ended, that just simmered along underground, like a fire that smolders for decades and then flares once again into a conflagration. America will live according to Conservative values or else. America will be a born-again Christian nation, or else. I don’t know if Trump is with the Republicans on this or just going along with them for the ride; two riders who both think they are driving. What could go wrong with that?

We the people have to think very carefully about what we want. Are we going to abandon the US Constitution written by our forefathers and follow the US Constitution as rewritten by Trump and the Republicans. You may be pretty cynical about our government already, but are these the changes you want to make? You may think that if the Republicans are so good for the economy and so tough on foreign leaders that perhaps we will like the changes they will make. Look it up, Republicans are not that great for the economy. They have run up huge deficits in this administration, and both the Great Depression and the recent Great Recession followed Republican administrations. And Republicans love war.

Do you really want an imperial presidency? Don McGahn not testifying before Congress may not sound like a big deal, but it is. The future of our American democracy depends on upholding the powers of Congress, including the House of Representatives.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Daily Beast

 

 

 

 

SEO and the View from the Cheap Seats

SEO and the View from the Cheap Seats

Don’t expect to get much love from using SEO if you are a writer, especially if you are trying to make your voice heard about politics from somewhere up in the cheap seats. Supposedly, if you follow the SEO guidelines, algorithms will be able to improve your position in the search engine search-results-line-up that matches your key words. Your site will rise to the top like cream on milk back in the day.

If you are offering a product or a service in a store-front type of website where visitors can add purchases to their cart and checkout then you and your design staff can invent new creative ways to find a spot in the top ten, but spending dollars will have to be part of your strategy, unless your site goes viral which is somewhat unlikely. Searches that allow consumers to look for businesses “near me” offer many more chances for businesses to be discovered by local consumers.

All bets are off if you are a writer, or anyone who is creating internet content but not selling goods and/or services. SEO becomes rather irrelevant for content writers and it will be almost impossible to move to the top of the results in a key word search. If you write about politics as I do, you will be buried so deep in the pack of a trending key-word-search that few will have the stamina to page through multiple pages of search results to find you. You will have to try to get some clout by getting published in highly visible media sources or get yourself hired by some media outlet to be a contributor, also a long shot if you don’t have any degrees in journalism.

For example I recently used the key words “women’s rights and #WomensRights. A Google search of this key phrase turned up 13 billion entries. Although search results give the most recent material first, posts in popular media outlets can take up several pages in the search-results-line-up. Regardless of how well you adhere to SEO guidelines you will never get close to the top of such a search. You cannot expect to be noticed and if you are noticed it will most likely just be a fluke.

Then there is the algorithm to measure “readability”. Perhaps I am a bad writer, although I don’t think so. Would getting a high readability score prove my writing skills are excellent. Again, I don’t think so. The SEO algorithm doesn’t seem to like prose – you know, well-fleshed out paragraphs following a logical argument to a reasonable conclusion. My recent article The Snowflake Games scored in the red on readability (bad). Perhaps that one was a bit wordy and focused on a limited audience (the media). But my fairly compact article Alabama and Melinda Gates was also scored with a red (no good) grade. So we are not dealing with an algorithm that judges quality of writing here; that responds to the set of complex factors that determine what qualifies as good writing. In other words the characteristics of good writing may be too abstract to conform to the current state-of-the art in AI algorithms. In fact the only article I have written recently that got a green rating for good readability is not an article at all; it is basically a meme, a list, Helicopter Love: Notice Me: Me, Me, Me.

It bears repeating – SEO does not, apparently, care for prose. It is designed to help businesses, not writers. If you are a straight-up journalist I suppose an SEO algorithm can be designed to incorporate the usual structure for news writers and can count links and factual statements (maybe), but I would not think that writing to a formula would encourage much creativity. If you write opinion articles SEO has few structural formalities to rely on.

Advice may come your way that tells you that podcasts are popular right now, or You Tube presentations – so you might want to change to a new format. But what if don’t care to use these formats. What if you want to write – to be recognized and listened to you for your writing, either your opinions or your journalism? Let me say one more time, SEO algorithms are not designed for writers. You will have to find creative ways to attract attention rather than trust AI to see you at all way up there in your cheap seats, even if you think you are frantically waving. You have something to add to the public dialogue and you must jump through SEO hoops but you know you don’t fit the design. If we all must conform with SEO formulas to get noticed there should be new algorithms for various categories of internet content, especially for prose. (What must poets contend with?)

Photo Credit: Purchased by Nancy Brisson (me)  from Shutterstock

Alabama and Melinda Gates

It could be a coincidence that I began reading Melinda Gate’s book The Moment of Lift while Alabama men were busily using bogus science to break an American law that has given women control over their own bodies for the past 40 years, but I think other forces might have been in motion in the universe. The reproductive rights that American women won in the 1960’s and 1970’s gave the United States a reputation for being one of the most enlightened places in the world for women and girls. Both contraception and the right to an abortion did as much to open up higher education and personal wealth to American women as World War II did to open up factories, office jobs, and family security.

I was there when it happened. I came from a poor family. My mom had eight children, probably at least four more than we could afford. My mom did not want to be a working mother. She was shy and nervous and suffered from low self-esteem. She was a good mom. All the kids in the neighborhood liked to hang out at our house. Several working mothers trusted her enough to pay her to look after their babies and in this way she contributed to the family income without having to, as she put it, “work out (of the home)”

But I was embarrassed when my mom got pregnant for the eighth time. I knew the economies we already had to make in our household, the old cars held together with bubble gum and bobby pins, the day-old bread, the cans of unlabeled food cheap at the supermarket that made dining a sometimes disappointing mystery, the struggle to shoe us all, the clothing contributed by neighbors. It wasn’t nice of me to react in this way but I was a young teen and it was tough to hold it in.

Melinda Gates, pregnant with the Gate’s first child, on the way back from a trip to China, told Bill Gates that she did not plan to keep working after she had the baby. Of course, as she reminded her husband, they were fortunate because they did not need her income. This is the way women were raised. If you had children you should stay home with them. It didn’t take Melinda Gates long to change her mind. At first she did not identify as a feminist, now she describes herself as “an ardent feminist” and she has earned the props to back it up.

She describes being a feminist in this way, “being a feminist means believing that every woman should be able to use her voice and pursue her potential, and that women and men should all work together to take down the barriers and end the biases that still hold women back.” Melinda Gates, a devout Catholic does not speak up much for abortion rights, which would be hard to reconcile with her faith but she doesn’t speak up against them either. She has invested time and money using the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set up in 2000 to make sure that women everywhere have access to contraception.

After a trip to Africa Melinda discovered that millions of children around the world are dying because “they are poor and we weren’t hearing about it because they were poor.” This led the foundation to invest in vaccines and delivery systems. At vaccination centers Melinda met women who had walked long distances to get their children’s shots but also their own shots, an injection of long-acting birth control so that they could plan their families.

“Increasingly on my trips, no matter what their purpose, I began to hear and see the need for contraceptives. I visited communities where every mother had lost a child and everyone knew a mother who had died in childbirth. I met more mothers who were desperate not to get pregnant because they couldn’t take care of the kids they already had. I began to understand why, even though I wasn’t there to talk about contraceptives women kept bringing them up anyway.”

She continues, “[w]hen women in developing countries space their births by at least three years, each baby is almost twice as likely to survive their first year –and 35 percent more likely to see their fifth birthday.” She tell us about a long-running public health study dating from the 1970’s. Half the families in villages in Bangladesh were given contraceptives and the other half were not. Twenty years later, the benefits accrued to the half on contraceptives; mothers were healthier, children were better nourished, families had more wealth, women had higher wages, sons and daughters had better schooling.

Melinda Gates does not only discuss reproductive rights in her book. She goes on to discuss schooling and equal pay for women, but she also talks about what is happening in America right now. “It’s a mark of a backward society –or a society moving backward—when decisions are made for women by men. That’s what is happening right now in the US.”

She tells us that if the policies of this administration are successful “more than a million low-income women who now rely on Title X funding to get contraceptive services or cancer screenings or annual exams from Planned Parenthood will lose their healthcare provider.” And she also tell us this, “for women outside the United States, the administration has proposed cutting its contribution for international family planning in half and cutting its contributions to the UN Population Fund to zero.”

“The administration also proposed eliminating the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which would end a crucial supply of contraceptives for teens who need them.”

Reading The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates on the very days when a law outlawing abortion is being sent to the governor of Alabama for her signature seems to argue for the possibility of “divine intervention”. The opponents of abortion feel that the Supreme Court is ripe to overturn Roe v Wade and they are making their moves, hoping the case which will assuredly be filed against this unconstitutional law will make it to the Supreme Court and that the Supreme Court will make abortion illegal in America.

Backwards, backwards. I don’t believe women will go there for long. These same men and women who oppose abortion also oppose contraception. If they win on the abortion issue, contraception could well be their next target. And women around the world who are just beginning to have the tools to fight the oppression of women and how it affects their families, and the woes of poverty for their children, whether these barriers arose from tradition or malign intent, or religion, will go down with us.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Wired

You can find me at Tremr.com as brissioni.

 

 

 

The Snowflake Games

The Snowflake Games

My first premise is that we the people learn about what is happening in Washington, DC mostly from the media. My next premise is that if the press doesn’t think a story is important, the people won’t either. My conclusion drawn from these premises is that if we end up with Donald Trump in the “oval” for four more years, the press and it’s insistence on both-sides-ism will be to blame.

We seem to have three big domestic issues getting attention in the press right now. We have the 2020 election, business as usual with the press in election mode. We have the media unloading on the Democrats for concentrating on investigations of Trump’s misdeeds/possible treasons rather than on policy. Then we have the media’s reports about Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the House investigations.

Elections First?

That all seems to reflect actual events until you look a bit closer. Elections are always given top priority in the political press. But right now, if we don’t want to have four more years of Trump, we have to focus on the “who’s the boss” struggle in Washington. Yes the President is the “boss”, but not in the sense of a CEO of a corporation. His job is to represent all of the American people fairly and wisely, but this President only represents himself (which happens to coincide with the goals of the Republican Party – sort of).

Congress passes laws but Congress also acts as a check on the power of the executive (President). Usually the Justice Department could be counted on to weigh in against excessive use of executive power also, but not in this case. Trump owns the DOJ. These things don’t make for “sexy” stories but they are vitally important to the health of our democracy.

Trump, as we all know, hates the Democrats, not just the ones in Congress, but all of them. Donald is an “either you’re on the bus or off the bus” kind of leader. You either support all he says and does, his every utterance and act, or you become the enemy. When Donald sees an enemy he sees only one strategy, wreak vengeance until you destroy all opposition. There are never two sides to an issue, there is no nuance. There is what Donald thinks and that is the only right way to think. (We see him turning on his own guy, John Bolton, because events in Venezuela did not turn out his way. And he’s not even a Democrat.)

Once you are on the Trump enemies list he will do or say anything to beat up on any one on the list, even if as in this case, his enemy is an entire political party, the Democratic Party. The only problem is that this party represents over 50% of the American people which means that he is also at war with the majority of Americans – a slim majority, but over 50% is still a pretty big number.

How can we run a fair election given our current circumstances? We are pretty sure that Trump will do everything he can to rig the election in his favor. We are pretty sure that he will count on the Russians to help him win even if he can’t communicate with them. They know the drill by now. We are pretty sure that he will pile-drive sincere candidates into the ground and eliminate them one-by-one.

Everyone expects Democrats to perform the miracle of beating a bully without breaking their pearls. We cannot resort to the street-fighter tactics Trump uses because the media will pillory the Democrats who at least try to keep a sense of ethics in governance. I hate the idea of having a very decent slate of Democrats having to face this piece of inauthentic ego-driven criminality while we pretend we are watching a real election.

The Press Determines What’s Trending and They Will be Blamed

How should the press cover this ludicrous sham of an election? The American people need to understand all the ways that this election is anything but a fair and free election. They need all of the outlets of our media that are still honest to explain all of the ways this elections could be rigged, and to keep explaining them in fact-based and persuasive detail because Fox is not objective and it is lying on behalf of Trump. Incumbents don’t even need the kinds of help this President is likely to get in the election.

But then the press will not look objective and the press is supposed to be objective, which is where both-sides-ism comes from. However, in the case where the foundations of our democracy/republic are at stake, an objective press will not serve to inform the people so that they can have a real stake in the outcome of the battle to save our Constitutional government. We will be unable to stave off the campaign to change the balance of power in America by making the executive branch too powerful. In this case, being objective means giving the people the real facts, being a counterpoint to Fox.

Trump has been beating down the honest press. The opinion page of The New York Times is a reflection of the intimidation our press has been subjected to. Trump played on the desire of the Times to act objectively and kept accusing the NYT of being unfair to him. If you follow the opinion page then you are aware of changes, fewer articles about what is going on in Washington, more articles from contributors who are not permanent writers paid by the paper. They are good articles but they diffuse the political energy which should be laser focused on unseating Trump. Perhaps this is about economics, the press is challenged in the days of the internet, but I don’t think that is the whole story. Perhaps it is existential. If we lose a free press in the bargain that will make a Trump victory even worse. But the press is on the front lines here and avoidance will also have consequences.

If the press doesn’t think an issue is important then the people don’t either. So, on TV politics programs when pundits are always quoting polls which say the American people do not see the President’s power grab as an important issue, perhaps they are just insuring that will continue to be the case. Even on a channel that supposedly leans left the message I hear is that the Dems are not responding to the will of the people when they place Trump’s overreach at the center of their attentions. Pundits pound the Dems for not concentrating on policy, although they know that Dem bills that pass the House have nowhere to go. They will never see the light of day in the Senate.

The message that the role of the executive branch in American politics could change forever is not getting through because people are not being told the truth, nor is the issue getting the proper weight in the press. But Fox is downplaying this struggle, saying “poor Trump”, and encouraging people to call Democrats “snowflakes” as if they were feather-weights trying to take on a deadly force, which, for all appearances, seems to be the case.

Turning a serious constitutional war into “the snowflake games” will almost guarantee that Trump wins in 2020 and that the Democratic Party will die a slow death. It guarantees that we will redefine the US government according to right-wing principles and that we the people will gradually learn what a terrible bargain we have been sold. I am sorry to say to the liberal press that for now this is on you. I will blame you for a Trump win in 2020 and for all the decay of our democracy/republic which follows.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Anthony Herrara Designs, Wired

 

 

 

Anathem by Neal Stephenson – Book

Although I have enjoyed Neal Stephenson’s books in the past I had a little trouble finding the best way to read Anathem. First of all, it uses the word “maths” a lot, and math is not my strong suit, although in the end no deep knowledge of math was required. Since Stephenson is building a world, the planet Arbre, the learning curve is a bit steep in the beginning. The characters have names that are almost familiar, but just a bit off. Main characters are Erasmus, Lio, Arsibalt, Jesry, Tulia, Ala, Orolo, (and many, many others).

So first I tried Audible, but I learned that listening to books puts me to sleep, which tends to destroy the continuity. I bought the paperback so I could read along but the print was just too small. Finally I reserved a hardcover copy from the library and that had another disadvantage. Once I started reading the hardcover edition I could not put this book down.

The book’s title, Anathem– a mash-up of anthem and anathema –  is a perfect example of the way Stephenson plays with our reality to make his invented world seem close enough to what we know in our own world that we can catch on to life in the Concent of Saunt Edhar fairly quickly. By the time we get to sample what is going outside the walls of the concent we are easily able to adjust.

Our characters are on the same clock-winding team. Since the Third Sack praxis (technology) is outlawed in the concent so mechanics are handled in old school ways. This giant clock at the center of concent life is connected to the observatory on the roof and must be wound with ceremony every day. Bells and weights all play important roles in the clock ceremony and in the community. The similarity to a combined monastery and convent helps us realize that our minds already have a schema for this world.

We spend a long time getting acquainted with the world of the concent and the maths that are scattered around the planet. We learn that these communities are not about religion though; they are about philosophy, geometry, history, astronomy, and physics. We also learn that the concents are surrounded by secular cultures lead by the Sæculua and that the concents open their gates at intervals and these separate populations visit each other. Erasmus, first among main characters has a cousin, Cord, who lives in town.

Just as we get familiar with these two adjacent cultures we learn through Raz’s “Fraa” (concent brother) – Orolo that something is going on with the Sun, something the members of the maths are not supposed to know about. But Erasmus is young and worried when Orolo is expelled from the Concent and he takes an enormous risk to find out what’s going on.

Worlds within worlds is a theme in Anathem. The concents share a design and ceremonies and titles. They all wear the bolt and chord and carry the sphere. Outside the concents where the people known as slines live differences vary by geography.

Eramus and his clock-winder group, in response to the emergency connected to what is going on with the Sun, get sent out of their concent to another, much larger concent for a Convox (a working conference). This does not go smoothly for Eramus who gets sent on a side mission by a Thousander prior to arriving at the Convox.

Eventually we see that Stephenson is headed to sucking us into a theory that says that there is more than one cosmos – there are cosmi. We also see that he is a unifier rather than a divider. Tag along with our heroes and see where this takes you and learn a whole new vocabulary along the way. (If you know your Latin roots you’ll have few difficulties.)

Neal Stephenson can transport me into one of his elaborate creations anytime and Anathem was no exception. The only problem is that landing back in my own reality requires an airlock (metaphorically of course).

Democrats Women and the 2020 Election

Golda Meir was elected in 1969 to lead Israel. This photo is entitled The Lioness Roars Again – From a Google Image Search – Moment Magazine

As we get ready for a weighty election in 2020 to decide whether the incumbent candidate, Republican Donald Trump will have four more years in office, whether we will let a Democrat or even a Democrat woman lead, it is clear that Trump and the Republicans are doing everything they can to make sure the playing field is not level and favors them. These tactics are in addition to the attacks on voting rights in America, especially Democrat voting rights.

The Democrats won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives but they have been sidelined, effectively stripped of real power by some pretty unprecedented and perhaps unconstitutional strategies, that this President, Trump, not a by-the-rules kind of guy, likes to use. These tactics are ridiculously transparent and should not work but his peeps have placed him in a fortified tower where he seems untouchable (word choice, deliberate).

The Democrats are trying to ignore the fact that, to almost 40% of Americans, they have been sold as annoying gnats, a ghost party, an object of trolling and derision. Democrats are hoping for two long-shot outcomes in 2020 (at least 2). 1) They want to elect a Democrat to the Presidency, and 2) They want to elect a woman to the Presidency. The Dems test of a good candidate right now is ‘can that candidate beat Donald Trump’. So far, among 25+ candidates no one seems to be a real stand-out, but if you watch any news program, women are certainly not making the cut.

Donald Trump has a truly underhanded quiver of election arrows which seem quite crude. Each and every day Americans are informed of the sins of Democrats. They actually, supposedly, did every single thing we all suspect that Trump and the Republicans did. Isn’t that quite a coincidence? And that’s not all, Dems ruined the economy, and ruined health care, broke trade, almost dismantled the fossil fuel industry. Therefore all things lib are awful and must be quashed. Trump has followers who constantly troll Democrats and Liberals, women, and now Progressives, on the internet with insults fed to them by the Fox channel. It is almost like getting strafed every time a head appears above the ditch Dems are supposedly standing in.

According to Trump, lefties have spied on the Trump campaign (no proof). They rigged the vote (again, evidence?). They conspired with Russia (the Steele report, the FISA warrant requests re Carter Paige – what?) Of course Hillary did not win the Presidency, but according to Trump that’s because she is so inept. It is actually the Dems who conspired (colluded) with the Russians (?) So the Russians must be quite inept too, because Trump won. (Hint-Trump cheats).

So this has to be about I’m rubber, you’re glue, “everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you”. It is the equivalent of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and getting away with it, which has metaphorically happened more than once in this presidency.

Again according to Trump, Hillary is a demon, in fact, all women are pretty demonic. The Democrats are traitors and the party is on life support. The FBI is subverted and is actively undermining the Trump presidency (shame on you Peter Strzok and Lisa Paige, really shame on you for giving this person ammunition), and Mueller wrote 400 pages to tell the DOJ that Trump was totally exonerated, which only took four pages in Barr-speak. Barr withholds the full report from we the people which is not so unusual but he also withholds it from Congress which is very unusual. (Barr’s actions are somewhat equivalent to watching a pregnant elephant carrying a baby for about two years and then having that baby elephant placed in solitary confinement as soon as it is born by someone who says to the mom and all of us, “it is mine and you can’t see it”.)

Furthermore Trump contends the entire thing is a huge conspiracy by the “deep state” (a descriptor that refers to different actors depending on who employs it). Add it on to all the old “Benghazi” and “child abuse” threads in the conspiracy theory that the right wing likes to keep spinning out and the Dems are destined not only for political oblivion but will be left out of the Rapture and sent straight to h-e-double hockey sticks. (Isn’t this a fairly complex narrative? Whatever happened to Occam’s razor?)

So, as Democrats have clearly, according to Trump and his minions, been checkmated, only some stunning circumstances will give Dems the victory in 2020. No one seems to believe, possibly including me, that a woman can win the race in 2020.

It certainly is time for a woman to be President and I know a woman could do the job very well, but the patriarchy is obviously not done hogging this privilege and responsibility and the public is not done letting them. If women in the race were not so outnumbered by men (and by men who conveniently have the letter B in their name making it easy for the press to focus on this group) I would suggest that candidates pair off, a woman and a man, running for President and Vice President as a team, with the man agreeing that the female candidate would assume the higher office.

OK, I know I am asking for mountains of criticism. But does anyone see a woman being elected President in this particular election? Will the men we elect just keep getting older and older? I know age is supposed to bring wisdom, but sometimes it just brings arthritis. Still the old men are the ones we know, the ones with experience, the ones who don’t seem hopelessly invisible. And, we remind ourselves, they have paid their dues.

I remember when Golda Meir was Prime Minister of Israel. She seemed so wise and motherly, although if you read about her time in office she certainly did not get perfect grades. I wonder if Elizabeth Warren might turn out to be a trimmer but equally comforting Golda-style leader, who also gets things done. Or maybe Kamala Harris, or Amy Klobuchar or Kirstin Gillibrand could offer us a very America version of the wise woman as a nurturing, but fiercely protective leader, providing effective governance both at home and abroad. America does not seem to be feeling it yet. Is there any way we can get both things we want in the 2020 election? Could each man running invite a woman to the dance? Let her lead. Women could be wooed by more than one man?

 

 

 

 

This is it: 2020 Election Is A Key Moment in American History

 

This is it. The 2020 election is a key moment in the history of America. If we the people do not turf out the Republican majority in the Senate (which we probably cannot do) or the Republican President (which we must do) then our democracy/republic could lose its Constitutional roots for decades, or forever.

Those governing us may give lip-service to constitutionalism but it will be basically a “dead letter” because, with an all-powerful executive in place and no checks on him, a president will be able to do whatever he wants. (Women will not be president in a GOP world, except perhaps for Marsha Blackburn.)

Life in America will go on. We will live in our homes and enjoy our families, I hope. People will still work hard, party hard, and go on vacations, maybe. Will we ever take the pride in the US Republican government that we once had for America’s role as the world’s superpower with a heart?

This GOP has no heart, wants to stay home and rule from there, wants a booming economy that takes revenge on allies who supposedly bled us dry, and wants to close our ports to people, but not things.

Won’t the rest of earth’s nations eventually turn their backs on this “walled-in” America? We will have to do what Winterfell did and booby trap our shorelines, build a ring around the nation with batteries of weapons, employ satellites like Dani’s dragons to spy on the world and prepare for a pre-emptive strike if it looks like someone is preparing to attack us.

If I thought that what the GOP and Trump want would be good for America I would set aside my loyalties to the Democrats and vote my heart. My loyalties are to America and not necessarily the Democratic Party. But right now the Democrats will save our democracy/republic and its Constitutional base and the GOP, obviously, won’t. If we care about anything that America has stood for, other than a great economy, the GOP does not intend to preserve those aspects of America.

So this moment, right now, and, if we make it that far, the 2020 election are the very moments on which America’s history turns. This election may not present us with a different America in a flash, but we will gradually turn away from all the traditions and beliefs we have embraced as Americans. America will become a darker place in spirit.

Although the GOP pretends to be aghast at socialism they are killing democracy, burning the bridges to our stalwart allies in Europe, forging new alliances with people we never trusted, and leading us into an authoritarianism that gets its inspiration from countries that torture and murder their own people if they protest against their loss of freedom. (Trump called Putin to tell him that he was “totally exonerated. What is that about? I do not think it is just about “sticking it to the libs”.)

If we stick to Trump and the Republican way that will spell the end of the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. It shouldn’t matter to me because I won’t be here that much longer, but I think I will mourn the loss of a fine (possibly the finest) attempt at standing up for the freedom and the humane treatment of all people, even after I am gone if that is possible.

When the Roman Republic (the model for our republic) ended, the Empire did very well for a long time. Perhaps some educated Republicans think the same thing would happen here. I suppose it could, but Rome was the civilized world at that time. We do not share that advantage. We have plenty of power-hungry nations happy to see us backing off our previous global course.

I have a feeling that the Republicans do not understand what their policies will do to America and they think that the Dems are just being dramatic for the sake of politics and winning (or at least that is what they say on their news media) (the Republicans have their own news media).

Whether they do not know what they are doing, have not looked at the long view; or they do know but are lying to their followers, I think this may be the most consequential primary and election season ever in America. Where the Republicans are taking us leads to a morally bankrupt America, and; in the name of something we already turned our backs on, namely racism and white supremacy, they are leading us into the wilderness.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Seattle Times