173. Sensual Fun vs. Rigid Belief

21 May

Contrast these two extremes. (1) A nightclub where there is loud, exciting music, flirtation, women in revealing outfits, people dancing, and generally, a lot of happy fun. And (2) devoted people praying in a religious setting. (Note: this blog deals with character traits, without making value judgements. I do respect religion.)

For a long time, I have noted that there is a spectrum, ranging from my 1 to 2, from uninhibited rhythmic wild joy — to rigid beliefs in God’s higher plan. This is not a simple distinction, and many people fit at different points along this spectrum. Some people start out one way and end up at the other extreme. In a few cases, a person could even have both traits simultaneously.

The reason why this is so important, is because this distinction forms the basis of some governments, conflicts and even wars. Osama bin Laden’s 911 attack on New York City is an example of this distinction. Much of Bin Laden’s philosophy is based on the writings of Sayyid Qutb (pronounced coo’tub). Qutb was an Egyptian writer that lived for a while in Greeley, Colorado, about 1950. He had a “vision” that God wanted humans to manage the Earth in a respectful, controlled, and “harmonious” way. He described the people of Greeley to be crude, brutish, obsessed with jazz, and the women flaunted their bodies. Qutb definitely did not fit in and if you look at his pictures, you can see why. He could have ignored this “crude” world, but he decided that it should be destroyed, a “Jihad.” The hatred, I think, is based on being unable or afraid to participate in the fun. I suppose that women in general found him undesirable. I suspect that Osama bin Laden, who had five wives and more than 20 children, had a good bit of fun, but many of his followers did not and had the Qutb type of hatred.

Let’s call this spectrum from wild-fun to rigid-beliefs. I see this contrast within the people of the USA. One type of person is deeply religious, is devoted to God, and deep down in his heart is jealous of the fun-loving types. I believe that the leaders in Alabama that want to make abortion totally illegal, are way into the rigid God-Plan end of the spectrum. Examples at the other end are Presidents Clinton and Obama. Sexy Clinton played the sax and enjoyed many women. Obama clearly enjoyed Al Green’s “Let’s stay together” song, a definite proof. He even sang, in public, a little of the song.

The above analysis, of course, is an over-simplification, and there are many human traits and spectra. I have written this blog for two reasons. The first is to understand why certain religious groups hate the fun-loving people so much that they want to kill as many as possible. My guess is two reasons: one is jealousy and the feelings of rejection. The other is that it tends to undermine their beliefs: people are having fun and many are ignoring God and religion. They might think, “I am being good, and defending God, and praying to make God feel good, and is all that for naught?

The other reason for this blog is that I want to define a certain character trait. It could be called “sensual rhythm.” I think that most healthy and attractive people, living in a peaceful community (and without Asperger’s syndrome) would have that trait, at least to some extent (both sexes). People with this trait usually like parties, sex, flirtation, love songs, Afro-Cuban music like Santana’s pieces, etc. People without this trait can lead joyful lives with other values, such as, intellectual accomplishments, art, or different kinds of music. Many take great joy in church and charitable activities. I am not making value judgments, just trying to better understand human behavior. I welcome comments and expect some nasty remarks from some people.

172. Tariffs Explained and Tariff Lies

15 May

JUST IN: Wall Street J. states that tariffs generally drag down ALL economies in the world, including ours. All markets have gone down. Trump’s tariff war with China is a poorly-planned  effort, which does not consider Chinese strengths and financial skills.

A tariff is a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports (or exports). The tariff is paid by the importer. For example,  if we put a tariff on imports from China, the tariff  is paid by the US importer (not China). The tariff money does go to the US Treasury. So it is true that the US Gov does get increased income. I suspect that part of Trump’s need for tariffs is to make up for the disastrous loss of gov income due to wealthy tax giveaways.   Major blog points, below:

CHINA DOES NOT PAY TARIFFS IMPOSED BY USA
ALMOST ALL TARIFF COSTS ARE PASSED ON TO US CONSUMERS
ONLY CHINA CAN SUPPLY CERTAIN GOODS AT LOW COST
TARIFFS USUALLY RESULT IN MORE “TAX” FOR US CITIZENS

The Gov gets tariff money, but the US importer passes on the cost. The retailer, like Amazon or Walmart pays more for the product and so will pass that cost on to the customer. It is like an extra tax that WE pay.

Re US tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump says that you can get around the higher cost, by buying non-Chinese goods. The problem with that argument is that China has much lower prices than USA and other country’s manufacturers. Also, China provides us with special parts that would be difficult to find or develop elsewhere. So in the end, American customers will be paying more. The higher prices will decrease purchases and that will have a negative effect on our retailers and could cause general economic negatives. The trade war with China will be costly for our people and may well be  unsuccessful in its ultimate goal changing China policies.

Now let’s look at the other side: retaliatory tariff increases by the other country. In the case of China, every tariff imposed by Trump has a carefully targeted Chinese tariff imposed on our exports to them. If Chinese importers must pay a tariff then they are less likely to buy American products. This can negatively affect USA farmers and manufacturers. In fact, farmers and workers here are already suffering from the China tariffs.

The headline reads: “Soybean Farmer Loses From Retaliatory Tariffs With No Bailout Funds In Sight.”

The general fact is that Trump himself benefits from tariffs, but many US workers will suffer. Of course, the totally reliable Trump says he will pay the farmers for their losses (good luck to them). But won’t reimburse citizens for higher prices.

The Trump tariffs may have some positive effects (pure speculation) but there are already losses for the people. The China tariffs are an attack on China and the start of a trade war is not generally supported. And remember that China owns a lot of US debt. Tariff effects are complicated and can have negative effects on our citizens and on foreign respect for our government. Between trade wars and withdrawal from vital foreign agreements, who can trust the USA under Trump.  Also, I must bring up Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP (Pacific) trade agreement. This agreement was carefully developed under Obama to strengthen US trade relationships with Asian countries. Trump’s withdrawal has opened the door to China to become a leader in this world area. 

Trump and Republican tax law changes have resulted in a huge loss of revenue, which has promoted discussion of decreasing social programs like Medicare. Trump may like tariffs because they can make up for a little of the loss. It can be viewed as a further tax on the non-rich, so that the rich can have even more money.

Under Trump, there have been some improvements to our economy, but what is very important, many middle-class wages are stagnant and still very low.

171. Why We Must End Trump Now

14 May

In my various writings, I have encouraged immediate impeachment because I see terrible dangers in letting him continue in office. Here is more detail on those progressing dangers, many of which cannot be reversed for many years.

Perhaps most important is the trend towards tyranny. In my previous two blogs I have detailed this process. In my Blog-169, I have showed step by step how a tyrant gains power, and Trump is well along in this process. In one area, his obstruction of justice started slowly, several years ago, and now he has gone full force and will not cooperate at all with ANY investigation.

When you consider the global effects, equally important is his ignoring climate-change (global warming). We are running out of time in dealing with this problem. He has terminated many of Barack Obama’s efforts in dealing with this monumental problem and withdrew us from the international Paris Agreement, signed by almost every nation in the world. There are several government and UN reports on this problem, which he ignores. We need to replace Trump so that we can put more money and effort into research and production of climate corrections.

Trump’s only method of negotiation is to build up our military and try to scare other nations into doing what he wants.  This is a negotiation at its worst. A good negotiator will see the big picture and explore all of the implications of a strategy. Trump cannot deal with any complexity (and has no attention span for research). His tariff conflict with China illustrates this. First, he lies and says China is paying for the tariffs. Then he ignores the fact that such tariffs, which may be greatly increased, can put some of our manufacturers out of business and will definitely cause price increases for our people. If he really was a great negotiator,  he would accomplish our goals with China in a congenial way.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) has strengthened our trading relationships with many Asian nations. It worked well. One of the first things Trump did when taking office was to withdraw us from the agreement. Now China and other nations will dominate is this area and we will be insignificant. This is one factor in diminishing the US as a world power for good.

With regard to the Iran Nuclear Deal, he withdrew from a very effective (but limited to nuclear) agreement, which included many major world powers. The is the best that this group of nations could do with Iran, and it did at least stop their nuclear bomb program. Now Trump is trying to get a better deal, but is only exacerbating international discord. I do acknowledge that he could succeed, but most likely not.

His work with North Korea is a total failure, because he refused to listen to previous negotiators. He lied a few months ago when he said that the N. Korea nuclear-development problem was ended. They have now resumed missile testing and have started to deal with Russia. However, Trump and Kim have “endless love.”

His appointment of judges and Supreme Court Justices is a disaster and every month in office will make it worse.

Trump continues to ruin our relationships with allies and to weaken trust. Many nations will not make agreements with us because of Trump’s record of breaking past agreements. He is simplistic and does not understand the full consequences of his actions.

Trump’s continuing affection for Putin must be stopped. Russian has interfered with us in many ways, including our elections. It is likely Trump profits from this favoritism, if only to get their help with his elections.

Briefly, a good President would be dealing with various other important issues. He has failed to come up with a good border and immigration plan, he has not developed a way to improve infrastructure, he and Repubs continue to sabotage our health care plan, and he continues to engage in criminal and illicit actions. He continues to support the rich and appoints rich loyalists to implement this goal. Many of his cabinet appointments are people that have a history of fighting the goals of the agency involved. He continues to encourage racism and violence.

We cannot let him continue. It is often best to do the right thing, and not simply assume that it is impossible. Even if impeachment is not approved by the Senate, it still makes an important statement, here and globally. Just recently reported, a poll says that the public now favors this action.  Please see my recent blogs for more information.

 

170. 800 Prosecutors Can’t be Wrong!

9 May

Briefly: Barr and McConnell have lied, Trump in a rage suppresses everything, M. Report shows obstruction, 800 prosecutors agree, some say Constitutional Crisis, Trump a billion-$ loser, Trump Jr was subpoenaed.  Are we at a turning point?

In the last day or two there have been dramatic events related to the Trump investigation and Robert Mueller Report. Here are the most important developments. I also have to add that my Blog-169 entitled “In the USA, an Emerging Tyranny?” was written two days earlier, Monday May 6. The six steps towards tyranny anticipate many of today’s events, such as Trump’s total suppression of testimony, documents, and subpoenas.

One of the most important events is the posting on the web site Medium of a letter from (as of now) 800 former prosecutors,  including both Republicans and Democrats. (Trump says he is exonerated.)  Here is the second paragraph:

“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”  

In a tweet today (@RichardLeeWB), I wrote:  I think there is already plenty of evidence for Trump indictments and impeachment from the Mueller Report and other information. So we could forget unwilling testimony and Trump obstruction. Note: impeachment even without conviction still makes an important statement, here and globally.

Today, the House Judiciary Committee voted 24 to 16 to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt for defying a Mueller Report subpoena. The committee wants the entire report as a part of their oversight investigation process. The Congress, which is of equal standing to the Executive branch, has a constitutional responsibility for Executive oversight.

A few days ago, Attorney General William Barr refused to testify before the House Judiciary Committee because he did not like the format. Claims that the examination by an outside lawyer was unprecedented, are false. An example is the recent supreme court hearings for Kavanaugh where Dr. Ford was questioned.

Several years of Trump’s early tax returns were examined by reporters of the NY Times. Examination of the period 1985 to 1994  indicates an incredible business loss of over one billion dollars.

Trump Jr was subpoenaed by the GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee to testify regarding the Russian investigation.  This is the first time one of the Trump family members was subpoenaed.

President Trump told reporters that “we are fighting all the subpoenas.” He has decided to restrict all testimony and documents that the Congress has every right to receive. This is based on “executive privilege.”  Please see my previous Blog-169 that outlines the step by step emergence of Tyranny.

 

 

 

 

169. In the USA, an Emerging Tyranny?

8 May

(Note: this blog was written two days ago, Monday, May 6.)

There are tyrants (autocrats, despots, authoritarians) all over the world. These greedy leaders establish their dominance by a typical pathway. It is important for people to recognize the gradual progression towards tyranny, so that they can fight these dangerous steps.

Here are the usual steps in the transition from president to monarch:

Step 1. Form a “base” of poorly-educated gullible citizens that can be manipulated. The base can be violent and aggressive, to create fear and submission by others. Later, better-educated opportunists may join the base.

Step 2. Get elected, using the base, intimidation, scams, illicit coalitions and whatever else works.

Step 3. Make the appointments of all gov leaders, judges, generals/admirals based on
loyalty rather than competence.  This cadre of loyal officials helps to keep a tyrant in office.

Step 4. Change the law to benefit rich friends. An example is a reduction in pollution safeguards that help manufacturers, but put the citizens at risk.

Step 5. Fight all actions against you. This can be done by attacking and limiting the press, by re-writing history, emphasizing your successes, suppressing investigations, ignoring subpoenas, and other negative legal actions.

Step 6. Most dangerous is any attempt to increase term limits or in any way prolonging the stay in office. All of the worst despots were able to find an illicit way to win elections or abolish elections so that they remain in power indefinitely.
—————————
Trump has taken all these steps and has even proposed something relevant to Step 6: that the first two years of his office were ruined by investigation and he should be given an extra two years to compensate. Thoughts like this are vile and dangerous. In many of my previous blogs, I have described the destructive nature of his presidency.

168. What Stands Out, in This Complicated World

7 May

For an ordinary citizen of the USA, I would guess that there are so many political events and ideas reported by the media — that it may be difficult to decide what is important and what to focus on. I see my role as a blogger, to help explain important current issues in a clear way. And, of course, I admit that I see the world in my own special way and with my own set of beliefs. Maybe I should explain just a little more. I believe in the following: Kindness wherever possible, a strong and prosperous middle class, the spirit of the US Constitution, respect for 99% of the law, and that the vote of every citizen should have an equal effect. To further explain the last point, a very wealthy person should not have extra influence on elections.

Here are my choices for the most outstanding and important current ideas and issues.

Climate-Change disasters are already here and we must make every effort to work on this problem, including considerable research and construction of “green” devices. This effort will take some money, but next to nothing compared to the expense of neglecting it. Briefly, numerous populated lowland areas will be permanently flooded, there will be massive migrations, and increased fires and hurricanes. Actual global warming is increasing faster than previously estimated. Climate change work must be funded, just like our military, government and other necessary agencies without asking where will the money come from.

We must put much more effort into protecting our elections from Russia and maybe other meddlers. Generally, our voting system must be hardened and reliable. Trump has put little effort into protecting our election system, but there are some efforts by various agencies and state governments to help. Our President has little interest because the meddlers have helped him.

Our government must support scientific and tech research, which can improve our lives and help with increasing population. For example, we must stop condemning GMO foods (see my blogs) and do sufficient research to improve trust in this valuable method. Nature is constantly modifying the DNA of all living things, and does not inform us of changes. GMO changes are known and we can test their safety. Humans have changed DNA for many centuries by animal and plant breeding; GMO is a similar, but quicker and more effective.

We clearly need improvements to our health care system. Abolishment of ObamaCare without a good replacement would be a catastrophe for millions of US citizens. ObamaCare provides more citizens with insurance and more safeguards for insurance loss due to various limits and pre-existing conditions.

We must maintain good relationships with our traditional allies: Canada, Mexico, members of the EU (and UK), Australia, India, Scandinavians, Japan, and others. We must very carefully work out an appropriate relationship with China and Russia. International relationships are very complicated and require the participation of many experts. Our current gov is simplistic and often resorts to coercion when good diplomacy is better. It also uses trade policies without considering all the possible effects.

Although sanctions can be useful in forcing more responsible government, they can be ineffective because the leaders of a country will always have plenty of food and various  luxuries. It’s the ordinary citizens that suffer the most. Sometimes really good, intelligent negotiation is better.

Immigration issues at our Southern border must be worked out in a reasonable and humanitarian way. This, of course, is a very complicated issue, with many valid interests to consider. Repubs and Dems must work together and form a viable plan. Our current gov has ignored real solutions and has taken action for purely political purposes, causing needless suffering for many.

The Robert-Mueller-Report makes NO statements of innocence, and includes facts related to many administration crimes, illicit actions, various wrongdoings, and suspicious activity. Ignoring these findings would be a disaster for our country. In order to satisfy certain rules and traditions, conclusions have been ignored, and left to Congress. The evidence provided in the Report can be used for various legal actions and when appropriate for articles of impeachment.

Our new Attorney General, William Barr, is a Trump sycophant who lies, and cannot be trusted. He must be nullified in some way.

Those who believe in democracy always include a free and independent press as one of the most important requirements. The best reporters, like those who work at major newspapers, don’t attack anyone without good cause. If a leader hates the press, then likely he is corrupt and making big mistakes.

Many writers have tried to explain the bizarre behavior of our President. Here are my thoughts: his desperation to keep voters leads him to contradictions, such as supporting both Israel/Jews and Neo-Nazis (Charlottesville conflict). He has no ideals or patriotism, and is only motivated by self-interest. Like most older people, he is somewhat affected by Alzheimer’s disease, which produces memory loss, repetition, and confusion. Stress and sleep loss may be other factors.

For more ideas, please read my other blogs and my tweets,   @RichardLeeWB.

 

167. Slippery Barr Defies Logic (Revised)

2 May

US Attorney General William Barr says that the word “spying” is the same as “investigating.” Spying is more sinister and he knows it. When Russia sends “spies” over here, do we call them “investigators”: NO.  Barr, a Trump sycophant,  is saying that the investigations of Trump’s administration, approved by numerous officials at the highest levels and by FISA courts, are somehow illicit and can be called spying. That would mean that a dozen FBI officials and judges (mostly Republicans) all conspired to persecute Trump for no reason.

If you read the M. Report carefully, you will not see anywhere, a statement of “innocence.” For all questions, either evidence is presented or it is stated that no evidence proving a crime was found; implying that further investigation could lead to such evidence. White House Lawyer Emmet flood confirmed in a letter that a prosecutor never finds that anyone is “innocent” or “exonerated.”

Barr said that he was not “summarizing” the Report, but was only stating the verdicts. But the analogy does not hold, because this is not a trial with verdicts. The Report is primarily a summary of evidence, presented without conclusion, to be used by Congress (not the A.G.) to decide on impeachment. Impeachment is somewhat different from ordinary criminal rules and procedures. Slippery Barr tried to say he was presenting verdicts; nonsense. The public does not care what this Trump sycophant thinks, it wants a decision from Congress.

Regarding  “conspiracy” or “collusion”, there was no clear evidence of an actual crime. But there were plenty of suspicious interactions of Trump and staff with Russians that indicated illicit Russian influence. The Trump-Putin exchange did not have to be based on money, it could have simply been based on Russian help with the election. The interactions include secret Trump-Putin meetings without any US officials, such as the Secretary of State. Contrary to usual governmental procedures, there was no official discussion before or after these meetings. There were numerous communications by Presidential staff with Russian leaders and favors for Putin, like delaying sanctions. Refusal to believe (for a long time), that Russia influenced the election. Putin was treated like an ally, instead of an aggressor (partially taking over Ukraine) and a killer of reporters (that Trump did not condemn). The suspicious acts of Trump were numerous and sufficient to start an investigation, without any need for the Steele Dossier.

I already discussed Barr’s prejudicial scheduling of the release of the redacted Mueller Report. First, it was released on the Thursday before the Friday holiday and a vacation time, so that no actions could be taken for a while. Even worse, about three weeks later, the press conference where slippery Barr presented his incorrect views of the Report, was held two hours before the Report was released, so that he could not be properly questioned. Thus, sycophant Barr had two opportunities to present his distorted views before anyone could read the Report. The American public paid millions of dollars for this vital investigation, which Trump, through Barr, claimed exoneration.

Mueller sent two letters to Barr stating that his interpretation of the Report was faulty. Barr stated that in conversations, Mueller said his interpretation was satisfactory. Until we have more testimony, we need to accept the written version, that Barr mislead the American people.

Thom Hartmann  writes (Salon, March 26, 2019) that back in 1992 Bill Barr did a cover up similar to what happened today. He reportedly buried evidence related to “the Iran-Contra scandal.” Conservative William Safire referred to him as the “Coverup-General. 

The manner in which Barr got his job as A.G. is very troubling. Back in June 8, 2018, Barr wrote a memo regarding “obstruction of Justice” that was favorable to Pres. Trump. It supported the view that an AG would not have to recuse himself regarding supervision of the Muelller investigation. Trump liked this idea and it probably influenced his decision to nominate Barr.

This morning, slippery Barr did not show up for his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, claiming that his examination by an outside attorney was somehow wrong. There is recent precedence for this: the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing (October 2018), where an outside attorney did some of the questioning. A historical search shows that there were many instances of questioning by staff or outside counsel.