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

 

 

 

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

Helicopter Love: Notice Me!: Me, Me, Me

HELICOPTOR LOVE: NOTICE ME: ME, ME, ME!

Why does Trump like to take press questions with the Presidential helicopter, Marine One, running nearby? Here’s some reasons that I surmise might explain this behavior. (Comic relief on the day Barr is invited to obfuscate before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the nation.)

  1. OBAMA DID IT WHICH IS A PROBLEM, BUT REAGAN ALSO DID IT SO IT’S FINE.
  2. EVERYONE HAS TO TALK VERY LOUD.
  3. IT’S DRAMATIC!
  4. HE GETS TO SAY “EXCUSE ME” WHILE HE RUDELY INTERRUPTS MEMBERS OF THE PRESS. HE GETS TO BE FAKE POLITE TO THE “FAKE” NEWS.
  5. EVERYBODY CAN SEE HOW BUSY AND IMPORTANT HE IS.
  6. HE IS VERY CONTROLLING AND THIS OFFERS LOTS OF WAYS TO CONTROL THE EVENT.
  7. HE CAN SHOW HIS DISDAIN FOR CLIMATE SCIENCE BY BURNING ALL THAT EXCESS FUEL.
  8. GIVEN HOW TERRIBLE THESE PRESSERS ARE, THEY ARE STILL PREFERABLE TO EITHER SEAN SPICER’S VERSION, OR THAT OF SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS.
  9. IF PEOPLE CATCH HIM IN A LIE HE COULD SIMPLY CLAIM THEY ARE HARD OF HEARING WHILE HE HAS THE HEARING OF A 25 YEAR OLD.
  10. HE JUST LOVES TO BE NEAR BIG TRUCKS AND MILITARY-STYLE MACHINES THAT ENHANCE HIS MANLINESS.
  11. IT REMINDS EVERYONE THAT HE IS THE “COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF”.
  12. HE CAN MAKE A QUICK GET AWAY.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search: CG Traders

Who’s Coup-ing Who?

Who’s ‘Coup-ing’ Who?

Often we think of a government coup as a revolution, an attempt by one ideological group to wrest the reins of government from those currently in power. We see it as a quick bloody battle where the perpetrators run a risk of death or imprisonment if they don’t succeed. If those in power lose then a new leader sits in the seat of power and sets policy. Those who rise to power can execute, imprison, or exile the ousted leader and his/her followers.

Overturning a leader through a democratic election usually is not considered a coup. Donald Trump is trying to change that. He claims that the Democratic Party is attempting a coup against him. The House is attempting to take over the executive branch, he says. Of course, in this case the Democrats in the House of Representatives are exercising legal prerogatives assigned to them in the Constitution of the United States. Congress is supposed to act as a check if the executive branch looks as if it has gone rogue. All that means is that they are allowed to ask questions and collect facts to make sure that a President and others in the Executive Branch are upholding their oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. The Constitution and historical practice places few limits on the investigative powers of the House or Senate Congressional Committees. Congress has oversight responsibilities over the Executive Branch. Investigation is Congress’s superpower.

Trump is a master of the craft of twisting reason until our brains feel ready to explode. He is claiming that the Democratic representatives in the House are using (or planning to use) their investigative powers to take over the Executive Branch and thereby, take over the American government. They are using the Constitution to invalidate the Constitution. (Did your brain explode yet?)

It is possible to have a bloodless coup, a coup whereby one political party pushes another political party out of power through chicanery and rigging elections. This kind of coup can take some time. Coups are things that generally happen in what we once named “third world countries”, countries where democracy is ‘iffy’, in places that are now labelled “illiberal democracies”- democracies in name only. We are supposed to be a “stable democracy”, well-established; the democracy, against which all others are measured.

But we have a President who accuses the Democratic Party of being traitors to the nation, of trying to turf him out of office and take over the government through a legal procedure called “impeachment”. Or perhaps, he asserts, they want to damage him so badly that he loses the 2020 election ( while at the same time he claims this is impossible.) Yes, he is obviously a desperate man, but he is accusing the Democrats of being traitors, guilty of treason!, just to wiggle out of having the nation hear the possible proofs of his bad behaviors.

He says that the Democrats are partisan, so they cannot be objective. Well that’s when I have to ask, “who’s coup-ing who”? The Democrats only appear to be partisan because the Republican Party has put them in that position. When Mitch McConnell said that he would obstruct everything Obama did he meant it and the GOP was behind all the disrespect towards Obama and the Dems that people insisted on blaming on both parties. It was the GOP who refused to do the compromise negotiations that have made our basically two-party system work. With obstruction, if one party absolutely refuses to compromise the other party must either capitulate completely or join in the standoff. Which party is partisan? Both I guess, but one by design, and one by default. The Republican Party has not stopped opposing the Democratic Party to this day.

We are in a pitched battle. It seems to be about the size of government and whether or not government should pay for programs that benefit the American people. It now seems to be also about whether or not America will be, going forward, a white, Christian nation. We are in this battle because industry fled and money went to safe havens and all the blood (money) went to the head (the wealthiest). Do we keep wealth inequality because these wealthy people deserve what they have (according to them)? We know what happens biologically when our lower body is deprived of blood flow. Will the same thing happen if less and less money ‘trickles down’ to those who are not at the very top of the social heap? Will the society die from within?

This picture of the future does not bother the Republicans, in fact they seek it, they are trying to hold on to this lop-sided distribution of life’s blood (which sadly, right now, is money). The Democrats would like to be the party of balance, of restoring a democracy which is fast disappearing The Democrats are not the ones who denied giving even a hearing to a legal nominee to the Supreme Court. The Democrats are not the ones who keep trying to use the “I’m Rubber, You’re Glue” strategy to pin their sins on the other party.

If anyone is staging a coup it is the Republican Party (which is now headed by Donald Trump). The GOP has been attempting to ‘own’ the entire federal government of the US and they have not been the least bit worried about doing this by the book. Tinkering with elections has been the GOP’s favorite weapon to use in their coup. They almost succeeded. In 2016, using a number of voter suppression and voter propaganda techniques (and perhaps by allowing a foreign government to interfere in an American election) they succeeded in taking over all three branches of government. They haven’t been able to hide their game plan so they just blatantly get on with it. Dems argue against these tactics and the GOP just laughs.

Although the GOP lost the House in 2018 they do not consider this will end their plans. This is a war and they only lost a battle. There is always another election and they are still tinkering, tinkering away. And if rigged elections don’t get them what they want the takeover of the states which they have been conducting will eventually succeed in turning enough states Red to trigger a Constitutional Convention and allow them to put the GOP stamp on our Constitution.

Trump is using the coup accusations flying around the internet these days to turn him into a victim (“poor president Trump”) of a ruthless political takeover by a party that is supposedly wielding the Constitution like a club. Ironically Democrats have learned that there are almost no tools available to fight a President or a political party willing to ignore the rules set down in our documents. The Democrats have never called what the Republicans are up to a coup, but I have. Now the Democrats are being accused of perpetrating a coup against Trump (and by association the Republicans). But he has simply taken the truth and twisted it to his advantage. Don’t believe him. If you use your head it’s pretty easy to tell who’s coup-ing who/m.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – The NYT, Twitter

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Citizenship Question on 2020 Census – Supremes Decide

Right now the Supreme Court is considering whether to allow a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, so it may be a bit late to express my deep concerns about the use of such a question during the tenure of this particular administration. Citizenship questions have appeared in the Census before, but not since 1960. Given the rabid attitudes about immigration expressed by Trump and backed up by his people (including the Republican Party) this is an especially fraught time to allow this question on this decade’s census. Undocumented people are basically being hunted down for deportation.

Accurate Count

In a climate like this how can we expect an accurate count of the people living in America right now. Census information becomes part of our nation’s permanent record offering up useful data to citizens simply seeking to know about their ancestors. Often people want to know their family’s history so they can improve their understanding of potential health challenges. Bad records offer bad data. If citizens have family members living with them who are undocumented, which is quite a common thing, they may avoid the census to protect relatives and friends from deportation.

Implications for Voting Rights

Trump has long sought lists of all US voters. I do not think he has the purest of reasons for wanting this information. He believes that suppressing voters who might lean left is a perfectly viable election strategy and he can’t even process the loud cries of “foul”. For any Fox News viewers who might stumble into this article by accident, suppressing votes is not OK for any reason in our democracy/republic.

However, ever since the Voter Rights Act turned 50 and the Supreme Court allowed the preclearance section of the law to be vacated, the Republicans and Trump have weaponized election tools to suppress Dem votes. Trump was not around when districts were so drastically gerrymandered that there are whole districts which will always vote Republican. The new Census can be used to readjust boundaries of voting districts once again. Trump plans to still be in power to help the GOP plunder the vote even more effectively than they did after the last census. Democrats, including Obama, are fighting some boundaries where there was clearly almost house-by-house gerrymandering but it is a long slog through the courts.

In districts that leaned to the left Republicans could play with things like cutting back on voting days, taking away polling places, trying to stop churches from taking people on buses directly to polling places to vote, choosing polling places that were not on stops of public transportation leaving voters off with some distance to walk to get to their polling place. Republicans could conduct purges of voter rolls, removing people who had not voted in a while. Obviously sometimes it is necessary to purge people from voter rolls who have moved or are deceased, but you don’t usually lose your voting rights because you decide not to vote. In North Carolina one Republican candidate had his people go house-to-house collecting absentee ballots and offering to fill them in for the voter. His illegal ‘strategy’ was uncovered and he lost his election bid, but the things that Republicans try to suppress the vote are not just shenanigans, they are serious breaches of the laws of the US, and winking while people attempt to get away with them is damaging to the validity of our elections, already under attack by Russia and China.

So it’s easy to imagine that one reason Republicans favor a citizenship question on the census goes something like this, “most immigrants tend to vote for Democrats, by discouraging an accurate count of immigrants we can hurt the Democrat votes, all is fair in love and elections (except that is not true) and if we do this we the GOP can win in 2020.”

More Nefarious Purposes?

There is another problem with putting a citizenship question on the 2020 Census and the problem is that it is possibly motivated by fascism, not any democratic impulse. That list that Trump wanted of all voters was not forthcoming because it is un-American and invades our freedom. Now he is salivating at the thought of a list of all of the undocumented immigrants in America and not because they are voters. The GOP and Trump like to keep whispering (loudly) in our ears that undocumented people are voting illegally and I suppose a few who have fraudulent ID’s could go vote, but I doubt if the numbers are large as such people tend to hide, to not call attention to themselves by signing public registers, which voters are required to do. He also does this in case he needs to “prove” that an election is rigged, something he seems to worry about a lot, because he needs to win.

But the other reason Trump is gleefully anticipating a positive ruling by the Supremes is because then he would have a sort of ‘gestapo’ list of names and addresses of undocumented people living in America. I’m not sure why he thinks that people in hiding from an aggressive I.C.E. will answer the census accurately, but he wants to try, even at the risk of getting inaccurate census data that will misguide many national decisions over the next ten years. I hope the Supreme Court has not moved this far to the right and will give us a sensible ruling appropriate to these times when white supremacy is being used to whip up divisions in America.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Democracy Now!

 

 

Republicans and Trump Question Validity of the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party

Republicans and Trump Question Validity of the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party (or in GOP speak, the Democrat Party)

The Democrats won enough seats in the House of Representatives in 2016 to become the majority party in that legislative branch of Congress. The GOP still has a majority in the Senate. The Democrats, when they won the House, won the right to conduct investigations of the executive branch. Congress has a vital role to use checks and balances to keep the executive branch from adventures in authoritarianism, such as the ones occurring in the administration of Donald Trump.

Clearly we have in the White House (where the executive branch is housed) a leader who is in serious need of some checks and balances. Just this week that leader, our president said, “No one disobeys me.”

This same president refuses to provide the investigations of well-respected committees in the House with his tax and other financial documents which our laws state “shall be turned over upon request”. This president swore an oath to protect and defend the very laws that he is defying. He apparently uses the Constitution as a pack of napkins to mop up from his “happy meal”. He also refuses to let his staff, present or former, testify before any of the House investigative committees. You would think that he might be worried about the optics of such an imperial dictate, but this president doesn’t respect the American people enough to worry about what they think. For him, it is enough that his own followers and his own news outlet will find his exercise of authority strong, rather than dismissive of our laws.

To most of us it appears that Trump ignores the very basis of our republic, that he verbally rewrites the entire power structure that has guided our nation for approximately 240 years by making the executive the branch around which all other branches revolve. However, that is the place in which our forefathers put the Congress. Trump is turning the presidency into an absolutist office served by the rest of the executive branch (including the Justice Department), by the Congress and by the courts. Trump is the “sun” around which the “planets” revolve.

This could be an insurrection of sorts, it could be a coup, it could be treason. America will cross the line from a democratic republic to an autocracy if Trump is able to ignore the Constitution and our laws with impunity, if he is able to ignore the sections of our documents which require him to respect both houses of Congress and all Americans, not just his own party.

Presidents being investigated often try to make such an investigation impossible with a number of squirmy strategies. This is not the first Congress to have to corral the powerful. But we have a president who seems to be able to use verbal abuse and victimhood to wiggle out of any negative judgment. How can this man who is so obviously a threat to our democracy/republic have people so loyal they will risk our freedom by their willingness to suspend the rules?

Democrats in the House will fight back, will get subpoenas to take Trump to court, but not if the Senate and Republicans will not honor the powers of the House when Democrats make up the majority. Republicans heckle Democrats, distract by blaming Obama or Hillary or demonizing the Democrats, bringing up old business, sometimes in statements that are blatantly ridiculous, sometimes in ways that send everyone scrambling to fact checkers to recheck claims that have already been proven false many times. If there is a public committee hearing, Republicans act like the boys who used to sit in the back row of the classroom in high school. I think their behavior goes beyond normal antagonism into derision and reflects more poorly on them than on their opponents.

Trump has placed himself in a position where he can stand alone as the “chief obstructer”, because he has sidelined any opposition with his contempt and stubbornness, and has surrounded himself with those who are finally faithful only to him. Has he won control of America? Has he already taken over, or do Democrats still have a chance to turn things around, to make our documents matter again? If Trump can keep saying no and delaying Dem investigations all the way until the 2020 election that will put him in a very powerful position, even though it should have exactly the opposite effect.

Trump could never obstruct and delay if the Republican Party had not already bowed down to Trump. They believe that Trump helps their Party, but the relationship works the other way around. The GOP enables and defends Trump as he takes over America right in front of their eyes. He does not do this for the Republican Party. He does this for himself. Trump does not share power. We should never forget the role of the Republican Party in all this. Their actions are seditious.

Our documents do not say that once you go through a special investigation you are not required to cooperate in any Congressional investigation. Trump insists that the special investigation makes all other investigation unnecessary, despite the fact that Mueller never looked at Trump’s finances, or the emoluments issues raised by that hotel in Washington, or the nepotism of placing family members in important government positions. And although Republicans and the DOJ say that Trump was totally exonerated by the Mueller Report, the Mueller Report itself, and the Democrats do not agree.

However, because Trump is willing to trample on the Constitution, to basically ignore it as if it does not exist, he thereby makes our most central government document worthless. Because he is willing to deny power to a party even once it has won a majority further destroys the credibility of our system of government. That means that as long as Trump is in office there is no Constitutional government in the United States of America.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search: ACLU

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The Mueller Report: Game Over: Not So Fast

Everything we thought was true, that which we have seen exposed over and over again (in some of our news) turns out to be true. The Mueller Report tells us this. Game Over – I think not. There is little in there that we did not already know. We have a President who will do anything to stay in power, although he was quite surprised when he won it. Was his surprise genuine? I doubt it. This is not a man who cares a hoot about being genuine. He had his guys put the fix in and they are all in jail for it. But he kept this hands clean, no paper trail to him, no tapes, just word-of-mouth. What people say is easily challenged, easily turned into a personal attack, slander, their-word-against-mine. Our laws will never get closer to this guy than what the Mueller Report managed to seek out and tell us. Our President is friends with mobsters and knows better than to leave evidence behind of his misdeeds.

How near crisis are we in America and in the world? How near a critical point in the transformation of our democracy/republic into an authoritarian state? How close to coastal flooding and weather too violent to ignore? How close to the death of our oceans? Whether or not we can afford to take our sweet time and make sure we have the goods on this man while he tramples our laws and our values and our institutions is not a question to be taken lightly. Trump proves through the testimony of his familiars that he would do anything to get his way, anything to protect himself, and anything to get reelected to an office that he disrespects, and does not comprehend or honor.

The Senate will not impeach. We know this. Trumpists around the country believe the new AG when he says that Trump is in the clear. But these are people who have taken us a long way down the road to destruction both at home and abroad, people who only seem to care that the economy seems temporarily improved. When America is finally ruined who will we blame, the people who didn’t see through Trump, or the people who did who did not do enough to stop the desecration of our nation? Will impeachment from only the House of Representatives wake up the bewitched? Impeachment doesn’t mean that a President has to give up his/her office. I don’t know if impeachment will work.

I thought the law was a muscular thing; that there was power and justice in the law. But when it comes to the powerful and the wealthy the law seems quite “dainty”. Lawyers intone on our television sets all day long. One day they find that Trump is despicable and bad for America. But then they equivocate, because we have written America into a corner where a sitting President cannot be indicted. Today the same lawyer who spoke with some passion yesterday now is pontificating about using our powers of reason, and is rationalizing inaction.

If any person without power or wealth in America did the things this President has done or tried to do s/he would be in jail. If we have a Constitution that does not allow us to protect our nation against a scheming President, a President who cares more about what he personally can “win”, not for the nation but for himself, and the adulation of his deluded followers, what loyalty he can command through fear, not through worth; when our Constitution does not protect us from such a person then that document is no longer enough to provide a government that works for we the people.

Our Constitution assumes that we will elect someone with integrity and a broad philosophical view which will keep our nation safe from plunder and dismantlement, or from weakness that allows a foreign power to exploit us. We have let a person with no integrity, no depth of view, a destroyer into our government instead. And now we find ourselves with no way to free ourselves that does not further the destruction of our freedoms and rights and the apparatus that allows us to keep these abstract and hard-won values. If the election doesn’t work, only mass demonstrations and chaos will offer any hope of restoring our nation to the framework provided and maintained by our ancestors. We also cannot stop governing for elections. There is always an election on the horizon.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – NJ.com

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