Archive | December, 2016

83. People Now Believe Lies

30 Dec

People who are knowledgeable about current events and politics immediately recognize a blatant lie. On the other hand, less well-informed citizens believe anything said by a politician that they like, or just ignore anything obviously untrue. The bizarre post-election situation we are now facing is not unique in American history.  After WWII we had a similar (but not identical) period of despotic McCarthyism.   Today, we are faced with two problems:

1. Voters believing lies if told by a likable or admired candidate.
2. Ignoring a record of lies told by a candidate you like or believe in.

The first factor is mostly a result of an evolution in information dissemination. In the last few decades, the sources for info have greatly multiplied. If we look back, for example, at about 60 years ago, most people relied on established newspapers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, and on TV/Radio news anchors, such as Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. Major news sources were more clearly defined and were led by trustworthy editors and managers.

Now there are hundreds of TV channels, a disappearing set of newspapers, an Internet with bogus news sites, and social media that can easily promote rumors. If you want to believe your hero, there is usually a source that will confirm his/her statements — right or wrong. So who is to blame for this situation? Individual news people cannot be blamed — it is a natural result of tech advances in a free society.

The second factor is natural for poorly-educated people. It is why we have an Electoral College in the USA. Our early leaders developed a constitution that they hoped would deal with this situation. People electing trusted representatives (Electoral College) probably worked better in earlier times, but is now obsolete.

Solutions: Here are some solutions, most of which will be difficult to implement, but are  well worth the attempt:

1. Abolish the Electoral College so that all U.S. citizens will have an equal vote.

2. All members of the press need to fight lies more aggressively. Many reporters and commentators appear to be afraid of certain politicians and this timid approach promotes them. I watch many news-programs on TV and I am often disappointed by the overly cautious and sometimes incorrect comments.*  Probably the primary reason is a fear that they will not be invited back, or could be some type of pressure by producers or managers.  Also, interviewers must not be too offensive, as the interviewees may not return.

3. We need to develop more unbiased fact-checking sources and results must be more available to all. Managers of social-media, such as Facebook, can try to do more to prevent the influence of bogus news sites. But, all this is difficult because we do not wish to affect our freedom of speech.

           CRITICS ALMOST NEVER STATE A BETTER CHOICE

Finally, I want to give one example of the feckless press. The moderator of the TV show MTP, stated that Pres. Obama was responsible for the dismal situation in Syria, because he failed to enforce his “red-line” edict about chemical weapons. But the moderator miserably failed to point out what actually happened. After the red-line violation, Pres. Obama went to Congress for approval of an intervention, but approval was not received. His efforts, however, did result in the eventual destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons. In general, Pres. Obama is often blamed for his inactivity in many occasions. But the critics almost never say what the better choice would be. Should we have another war with numerous lives lost and 10 years of occupation? I want a President that is thoughtful and does not act when there is no clear benefit from any U.S. action. Foreign policy is very complicated and cannot be led by amateurs.
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*As I am writing this, I see Rachel Maddow aggressively interviewing KellyAnne Conway, bravo!  Trump is afraid to give news conferences.

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82. Result of Abysmal Trend: Trump

28 Dec

Does the election of Donald Trump represent a continuing trend towards a crude, simplistic, and tyrannical U.S. government? After observing Trump post-election, I see a dismal continuation of all his bad habits, talk, and actions. How did a person like Donald Trump achieve his success? Not a total success, of course, because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million.

If you study global and USA political trends, there is a common dangerous pattern for many nations. Very rich people become skilled at manipulation of government and corrupt the system to make themselves more powerful and even richer. There is a flagrant disregard for ordinary citizens except for callous brainwashing and meaningless promises of: compassion, America greater, trickle-down benefits, etc. This trend also has a crude factor which emphasizes simple and often violent solutions to complex problems that should be solved by careful planning and negotiation. Examples of this crude approach is: “bomb the hell out of  ISIS”,  “ban all Muslims from the U.S.”, and torture presumed terrorists.”                                                                                                                               .
Although some Democratic leaders are imperfect, it is the Republicans that have led the growth of the billionaire conspiracy. In my previous blog, “Dirty Tricks win Election (blog 80)”, I have discussed some recent examples of this conspiracy, which includes election interference by a Republican FBI director, Russian hacking of DNC email , and suppression of voting by minorities.

I have thought a lot about how and when this trend started. I could note that after the election of Ronald Reagan (1980), there was a significant rise in income for the top one-percent, while after 1970, income for the bottom 90% remained essentially constant. So 1980 could be considered the beginning of our abysmal trend. But if you study history, you can see similar trends going way back to ancient days. I should also note, that some countries, such as those in Scandinavia, have done better in this respect, and they should be used as an example.

Here are some key events that have contributed to this erosion, distortion and inequality of the USA democratic system:

Large corporations, like railroad companies formed unfair mergers that led to anti-trust laws in 1890 and 1914. Rich businessmen often team up covertly to raise prices, increasing their wealth and taking money from the middle class.

Reduction of bank regulations like the Glass-Steagall Act (1933) led to major financial failures.  We also need more laws like the Dodd-Frank Act (2010) and better enforcement.

After the election of Pres. Obama in 2008, major Republican leaders, in a meeting, pledged to destroy his presidency, by ignoring everything he proposed or supported, including legislation and judicial appointments. Never in U.S. history has the obstruction of legislation been so blatant. In spite of this, he did a remarkably great job.

                GOP unpatriotically pledged to destroy Obama presidency

Formation of the Tea-Party branch of Republican Party in 2009 was a major negative influence. This was an angry group that supported rich leaders and worked against the middle class. In efforts to reduce federal spending, they caused serious problems, such as holding up important budgetary legislation, which resulted in a disastrous lowering of the USA credit rating and higher USA-debt interest rates that affects us all.

In 2010 there were two court cases brought by Republicans that allowed almost unlimited contributions to political candidates. These rules let the very rich dominate our election system and were implemented with “super PACs”. Previously, there were severe limitations, like a $2500 maximum donation for individuals and no corporate donations. The best known case was brought by “Citizens United”, and another by Speechnow.org.

The end effect of all these events was the election of Trump. He won with various “dirty-tricks” (see above) and a campaign based on lies, re-writing history, impossible proposals, and a policy of lowering taxes for very rich people. He ran on the principle that he could not be influenced by rich donors, but, ironically, much of his current cabinet is composed of extremely wealthy businessmen. Some will be directors for agencies that they had vowed to eliminate when running for office.

The success of Trump was based on a faulty fundamental “belief”, that only Republicans should be considered for office, and that a non-politician must be selected for president. Only Trump matched these considerations. People were correct in feeling that Congress was grid-locked, but failed to realize that it was the GOP that blocked progress. Search the record and you will see that Republican leaders blocked many court nominations (including Supreme Court) and blocked almost every bill proposed by Pres. Obama, even if it was based on GOP ideas.

The corrosive trend that I have discussed will be difficult to defeat. We can try to promote more general and political education. States can develop beneficial laws, such as raising minimum wage, that the Federal government will not consider. In general, we must all work harder to explain our ideas, to educate, and to support better approaches. And in the future, we must try to get the most charismatic, scandal-free, and articulate people to be candidates.

81. All Complex Systems are Corruptible

18 Dec

I research medical matters, politics, science, economics, artificial intelligence, manufacturing, and many other topics — mostly because I just enjoy learning. As a result, I see our world as a fascinating collection of complex systems, some natural and some man-made. But in the last few years, I have been impressed by the fact that corruption is everywhere. An interesting and symbolic illustration is contained in a TV series, Life After People showing the deterioration of buildings and other man-made structures — if humans suddenly disappeared. We see how nature insidiously destroys our prized cities, buildings, roads, bridges, etc. Our world is a combination of new amazing structures like the International Space Station, and, all too often, tragic deterioration like the devastation of Aleppo.

Challenge: Name one large complex system without some corruption

Here is my brief list of important corrupted complex-systems:
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1. Life. Almost all living species have corruptive elements. Everyone is familiar with the effects on life of viruses, harmful bacteria, and human mismanagement.
Anti-corruption forces: doctors, other healthcare providers, and the people, themselves.
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2. Computers. At an early stage, computers and their attackers began to evolve together. They are attacked by a variety of viruses which function very similarly to animal viruses. In both cases, viruses modify existing control elements (DNA for life and circuit logic for computers) to reproduce themselves, and to destroy what they have infected.
Anti-corruption forces: numerous anti-virus commercial programs and government and private agencies.
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3. Internet. There are hackers that steal and alter private information, web-sites that promote false political information, various scams, utility disruption, etc. Like the computer topic above, corruption evolved as the Internet evolved.
Anti-corruption forces: specific government agencies, police units, and some commercial and private operatives.

.        Worldwide, governmental systems are replete with corruption

4. Governments. Worldwide governmental systems are replete with minor and major corruption. Aggressive and often ruthless people are able to become presidents, prime ministers, congressmen, agency directors, tribal chiefs, etc. It is a natural process for such people to gradually take more and more for themselves and provide less for the people. In most nations, a greedy royalty class” emerges that is devoted to increased power and wealth. In many of my previous blogs I have discussed various details of this type of corruption. Very rich people find ways to increase their riches by corrupting officials. Corrupted leaders often lie about things that concern them and re-write history according to their agendas. They often discourage public education, education in general, and attack the press.
Anti-corruption forces: The responsible press, bloggers, ethical politicians, and informed voters.
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5. Businesses. These have several types of corruption. Within a business, competition for advanced positions can be ruthless, and in order to increase profits, faulty or even poisonous products can be sold. Business leaders often corrupt congressmen to benefit themselves and their organizations. Many lobbyists are the vehicle for corruption. Anti-trust laws, first developed in 1890 and 1914 illustrate ongoing USA private enterprise exploitation. The Enron Corp. disaster of 2001 is a lesson in corruption.
Anti-corruption forces: special police units, ethical businesses and politicians, informed citizens, whistle-blower employees, etc.
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6. Sports. A wonderful example of a corrupted complex system is organized sports. Gamblers have bribed athletes to promote their betting. Athletes take potentially harmful drugs to promote their performance. Even governments have participated in this type of inappropriate drug activity. Olympic Game officials have been prosecuted for illegal practices.
Anti-corruption forces: the press, governmental units, police, informed citizens, etc.

.    Corruption is a part of every large system — because it is profitable

There are so many susceptible systems that I cannot cover them all. A few more are healthcare practices, hospitals, schools, and religious organizations. Just added today, foreign interference in elections.

Conclusion. The several examples listed above suggest the universality of complex system corruption. An interesting development is “blockchain” which is a new way of recording and operating almost all financial interactions — and could be effective. It is touted as the ultimate international financial system and as being incorruptible. But history tells us that clever hackers will probably find a way in. It is clear to me that any system created and operated by humans, where it is advantageous to do so, will be negatively exploited. Why is corruption so ubiquitous? — because it is profitable.

After my final editing of this blog, I sense the excessive negativity that I have created. So I want to encourage the reader by saying that the world is also full of safe and enjoyable experiences that we can explore and must expand.

80. Dirty Tricks Win Election

13 Dec

A number of actions occurred during the recent U.S. election process that can be classified as dirty tricks — and led to the Trump win. Here are the most important:
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1. Suppression of voters resulting from Republican state-government legislation. One method was to decrease the number of voting days, which caused a decrease in minority voting. A Republican supreme court recently abolished rules to control voter suppression laws and red state governments rapidly took advantage of this.
.                        THE FBI DIRECTOR WAS A REPUBLICAN
2. Republican FBI director Comey interfered with the election process. The first problem was his assessment of Hillary as “extremely careless.” He has no baseline, no data from other similar officials, to make this conclusion. Maybe if other leaders were examined in detail, they would have been worse. The next problem was his announcement of an additional email investigation, 11 days before the election — violating agency rules. Comey and many FBI officials are Republicans. It is well established that there were FBI-agent leaks and excessive investigative actions.
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3. Russian hacking influence. All the major U.S. intelligence agencies agree that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee. They then chose to release a number of private emails by high ranking Democrat officials. There was nothing illegal in the emails, but private conversations can be misinterpreted in a negative way.
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4. Hillary was dogged by numerous unjustified congressional investigations, which ultimately led to nothing.
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5. Women that Hillary’s husband had affairs with were paraded in the audience during one of the debates.
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6. Online web sites that pretended to be valid news sources spread lies about Hillary and her campaign. This was a serious problem, as many voters get most of their info from such social Internet sources.

             VOTE FOR US SO THAT WE CAN BECOME EVEN RICHER

In addition to the “tricks”, Trump lied about many facts, painting a terrible picture of the Democrat candidate. One of the most ridiculous lies was that Hillary initiated the Pres. Obama “birther” movement. He also said that Pres. Obama founded ISIS. Some of the lies were later retracted, but they still had an effect. Trump’s lying exceeds everyone else that has run for major office, but he belongs to a party that has a major lie as a premise: if you lower taxes for very rich people, and make them even richer, somehow the extra money will “trickle down” to the rest of us. There is a history of lowering taxes for the very rich, which shows that the “trickling” does not happen. They get richer and we stay the same. Even the Pope pointed this out. They can’t be honest and say: vote for us so that we can become even richer. There are many other similar GOP lies.

                      YES !  HILLARY WON BY 2.5 MILLION VOTES
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If you combine the small effects of each the “dirty tricks” and lies, you have enough influence to shift the election from Hillary to Trump. Remember that voting was very close in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — and that Hillary actually won the popular vote by 2.5 million — YES !! 2.5 million more citizens voted for Hillary than Trump. This will go down in history as the greatest injustice in the U.S. history of presidential elections. I hope members of the electoral college will change their votes accordingly. The future of our country and others could be markedly affected by this outcome.

79. Heroes of Trump Attacks

8 Dec

I think we need a special medal, maybe called “The Peoples Medal of Honor”, for those who criticized Donald Trump and were personally attacked by him (or his associates).
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The latest of these is Union Chief Chuck Jones who corrected the number of Carrier Co. jobs not moved (saved) to Mexico. Trump simply makes up facts in attacking Jones: “He has done a terrible job representing workers …. no wonder companies flee country.” Both of these statements by Trump have absolutely no objective basis — just made-up ideas to suit his needs. If Trump has no facts to prove his point, he just makes them up.

.                                                         Truth  Matters
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Other heroes include: the Khan family (gold star parents of war hero), many major Republican leaders, members of the press, Hillary Clinton, Judge G. Curiel, news anchor Megyn Kelly, and numerous others. Megyn Kelly is a special hero for having endured endless inane attacks by Trump supporters. (I disliked Kelly for many years, simply because of her association with Fox, but now I like her and admire her bravery.) Remember, he even criticized John McCain, a POW war hero, for getting caught !!! How can Trump be trusted to deal with foreign leaders. NATO allies are already worried about his leadership.
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Just after Trump’s election, I was hopeful that he would become more responsible and cause only a minimal amount of damage to USA prestige and effectiveness. His meeting with Pres. Obama was encouraging. But gradually this optimism disappeared as I saw the continuation of his petty revenge actions, and as he gradually filled his administration positions with “yes-men” and bizarre misfits. He clearly is more concerned with loyalty and control rather than the good of our country, at least at this point. There is still some slight hope that when he actually becomes president, he will make mostly reasonable decisions.

  Let’s Fight Trump’s “THEATER” with our own more noble theater.
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But getting back to our heroes, I fantasize a special USA national organization for those attacked by Trump, with regular meetings for the presentation of “The Peoples Medal Of Honor.” All medal presentations would be delayed for six months to exclude victims who later become Trump “yes-men”. This of course is a fantasy, but I want to emphasize the importance of counteracting Trump using his own methods. Let’s fight Trump’s “theater” with our own more noble theater. We must find ways of supporting, publicizing, and rewarding our hero critics.

78. Science Forges Ahead of Citizens

2 Dec

Scientific knowledge and achievement is moving so fast that it is leaving the average citizen behind and a little confused.  Most ordinary people have a poor understanding of scientific principles.  So when important functions like voting arise, the lack of understanding can lead to serious consequences.  Here are three relevant issues, and there are many more:
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1.  Clean Coal.  Some dangerous toxins can be removed while burning coal, but coal-burning is NOT free from producing dangerous levels of CO2  (carbon dioxide).  CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reflect heat back to the surface of the earth and cause a general heating effect (climate change).  The key factor is that the history of burning fossil fuels is closely related to CO2 levels and to a small degree (so far) of general warming.  It is clearly man-made because the changes are much too fast to be a natural earth cycle.
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2. Understanding Climate Change.  Please see above, and also my blog-34 that gives more detail on this topic.
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3.  Nuclear Power.  This is a valuable source of clean energy that is under-used because people really do not understand it.  It does take a certain amount of scientific knowledge to assess safeguards and other progress in this field.  Industrial use of nuclear reactors has been around for at least 50 years and has developed into a very safe system.  It is only scary because humans cannot detect dangerous radiation.
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Understanding science also plays a major role in such areas as: abortion legislation, stem cell research questions, different types of pollution, and funding for research projects.  The world could function better if government leaders (such as congressmen) and citizens were better educated.  I would venture to guess that education will gradually improve and reach a good level at about the same time that Florida is submerged by warm and rising oceans.
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And even if people were not required to learn a lot of science, at least there could be more emphasis on learning to evaluate and use reliable sources of scientific facts and other information.  A good start in this endeavor is to consult scientists about science and not politicians.