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107. How Voters Find Truth

20 Aug

While politicians are the immediate cause of our country’s problems, the primary, ultimate cause is bad decisions by voters.

One problem may be that our government and social system have evolved faster than the general skill of voters. Highly educated people probably do a good job, but the most poorly educated can make disastrous mistakes. It’s similar to the ordinary person trying to understand current technology.

I suspect that many voters have a difficult time deciding who is telling the truth. In the past, great newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post, for example, were highly trusted. And also certain news people, like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and several others were considered authorities.

Compare Trump with these traditional sources. Trump never apologizes or corrects errors. The best he can say is that he was joking or being sarcastic. Major newspapers, on the other hand will print corrections if necessary, and the record shows that they do. They never state after a few days, that they were joking or being sarcastic. It is incredible that I have to say, that the words of a US President must be serious and correct. And yet, some voters just don’t care.

Here is a list of ways to determine whether a leader is truthful:
1. Is there a reasonable amount of consistency in similar statements made at different times? (See Trump’s reasons for firing FBI James Comey.)
2. Is there consistency between himself and his staff? (Trump’s attack on NATO was not supported by his staff.)
3. Does he correct errors. Everyone occasionally makes a mistake. (No corrections.)
4. Are his promises realistic (“Mexico will pay for the wall”, really?)
5. If a leader says the press is always “fake,” and he is the only source of truth, isn’t that a little suspicious. After all, the press includes a wide variety of orientations from way left to far right (even alt-right).
6. It is easy to check (with a little bit of searching) how he quotes other people.
7. Does he accurately portray established historical facts? (See what Trump says about the childhood of ex-president Obama.)
8. Does the leader appear to have a good understanding of complex issues.
9. Does the leader tend to avoid directly answering questions by the press.

I know that the voters that really need to read this, probably will not, but this may be helpful for anyone who is trying to promote citizen education.

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99. Change Yes, Trump No

4 Mar

I think our country needs some radical changes to preserve it, and make it exemplary again. Forget Trump’s “great  again”, let’s make it admirable, honorable, and respectable. This blog is “BasicCauses” and I want to look at some of the fundamentals of our system.

I am going to make some major criticisms so I want to make it clear in advance, that I am happy to be an American, vote every election, served in the U.S. Army, and enjoy free enterprise, having created two successful businesses. I generally support the fundamental features of our current governmental system, but believe we need some significant basic changes. The arrival of Donald Trump as our country’s leader, emphasizes the need for  re-thinking.   Please consider the following:

1. The Primary Process and Voting does not yield the best leaders. This is hard to fix, and probably the best solution, better education, may not be effective for a long time. Many poorly educated voters do not have the reasoning and research skills to make the best judgments. Long held and obsolete beliefs are barriers to better choices.

2. Congress is organized so as to promote gridlock. Our current system has too many barriers to completing legislation. There are many different changes that could speed up law making. One thought that I have had is to have one large legislative body and require 52% of votes to pass a bill. Filibustering would not be allowed, but short speeches from many would be allowed.  The quality of legislation could be improved by adding to this body,  various specialists such as University representatives. A major reorganization will not occur in my lifetime, but starting to think about it is important and I may discuss it more in future blogs.

3. The “fourth branch of government”, the press, is being oppressed. It appears now that we need to pass laws or find other means of protecting the press and allowing them to criticize without recrimination. Also, the citizens should clearly support freedom of the press.

4. Rich donors should not have powerful control of our government. I suggest a maximum donation of $100 for all citizens and no donations allowed from corporations or other organizations. Let’s abolish the super pacs and have a true democracy.

5. Our middle-class is not benefiting enough from our nation’s success. We need to abolish tax-loopholes and increase rates for the very rich.  Many wealthy corporations and individuals pay no tax at all because of loopholes.  Even the Pope has criticized “trickle-down” approaches, which rarely work, but are advocated by the GOP.  (“Trickle-down” means: give lots of money to wealthy businesses and simply hope that some will trickle-down to the rest of us.)

6. Congress should not police and regulate itself. An independent body should do this. (The same goes for all Healthcare organizations and many other service areas.) Unfortunately, with today’s polarization, it is not easy to find truly independent persons.

7. A potential problem is “privatizing.” This means moving a function run by the government, to a private, for profit company. A consequence is that some rich person (and staff) will make huge amounts of money and emphasize profits over proper services. In most cases, the benefits of competition do not make up for all the money lost to over-paid executives. For example, privatizing prisons was a failure and was abolished. Politicians sometimes threaten Social Security and Medicare with privatization, which would decrease benefits.  I have said more about this in previous blogs.

97. Trump’s Extreme Hypocrisy

25 Feb

Trump loves to dramatize his speech, like we need “extreme vetting”. He said that he was going to “win so much, you’re going to be sick and tired of winning.”

I just heard Trump complain at CPAC, about the news media using anonymous sources. Frankly, I laughed out loud. During his adamant “birther” period, on numerous occasions he referred to unnamed sources searching records in Hawaii about to prove that Barack Obama is not a citizen. This pattern of stating unsupported “facts” (aka alt-facts) has been repeated numerous times.

In fact, I would confidently venture to say that Trump himself referred more times to unknown sources (or did not name a source) than any other president. Here are a few examples:

Trump said that Hillary won the popular vote (by a margin of almost three million) because of illegal voting.  In fact, “all the illegal votes were for her!”  Does he think that all of us are incredibly stupid, or is this stated just for his hardcore fans?

The crowd for inauguration was much larger for Trump than for Obama.  No proof for this assertion was provided, but plenty of photographic evidence was provided for the opposite.

He stated that he won more electoral college votes than previous presidents — false. No sources for this were named, and after questioning, admitted his error.

We gained nothing from the Iran Nuclear Deal and the money paid could have been used for infrastructure work. He failed to say that the money paid was actually Iran’s money that was confiscated and could not have been used by us.

There are many other types of extreme hypocrisy. A really good example is Wall Street abuses. Trump complained on numerous occasions about Hillary’s relationship with such companies as Goldman Sachs Group. He said that Clinton is “nothing more than a Wall Street puppet.” But after his election, he named former Goldman President, Gary Cohn to head his National Economic Council. Former Goldman partner Steven Mnuchin was chosen Secretary of Treasury. Chief Strategist Steve Bannon once worked for Goldman Sachs. Trump is also working on reducing safeguards aimed at avoiding investment company failures. After pledging to fight Wall Street he has been doing everything to support them. His promises to help the working man are shameless lies.

After talking so much about Clinton corruption, the following has just been reported. The Republican chairmen of two intelligence committees have admitted that a member of the White House staff approached them. They were asked to tell reporters that no illegal contacts of the W.H. with Russians were discovered.  And at this time,  the committee work was not even finished.

There also is evidence that a report on the “Travel Ban” countries was tampered with. The original report (leaked to press) stated that the seven banned countries posed no particular threat. Country of immigration origin is not a good predictor of terrorist activity. The final report was altered to say the opposite.   See this website:  http://www.msnbc.com/maddowblog   for supporting details for this paragraph and the one above.

All of which brings to mind my greatest worry — that Trump will not only fail in many ways, but he will re-write history so that the Democrats are blamed for the failures. He actually blamed Hillary for the “Birther” movement!

96. One Month of Trump

24 Feb

It has been a month since Trump was inaugurated. This blog is concerned with various troubling statements, staff appointments, and other actions. It covers what I see as most significant at this time.

Information Leaks. If a government is doing its job ethically and effectively it has no great fear of leaks. It is leaders that employ tricky or unethical methods that obsess and rant about leaks, and also about the “lying” press. A good government only needs to keep secret certain operations such as diplomatic, intelligence, and military. Sometimes leaks are emphasized to avoid more important issues like a presidential involvement with a foreign country.

Fine-Tuned Government. I don’t think any government is a “fine-tuned” machine given the necessary variety of it’s officials, each with his own ideas and ideals. If everyone agrees and there is fine-tuning, it is likely an authoritarian group of yes-men. A good government needs a variety of opinions from knowledgeable advisors, and reaches a decision based on a consensus or on the best arguments.

Trump Inherited a Mess. Our brave President says that he “inherited a mess.” Hmmm, when he took office, the stock market was way up, the highest it’s ever been. So investors are dancing in the (Wall) streets. The unemployment rate is way down at about 4.8%. The outgoing President Obama has a very high rating, a good indication that there is no mess. There are messes in other parts of the world, but nothing serious here. Since 911, the number of terrorist attacks here have been small compared to other major countries. Perhaps the worst mess is our high prison population. Pres.Obama worked on this but had little cooperation from Republicans. Trump needs to invent messes so that he can heroically clean them up and win the adoration of his poorly educated throng.

A Confused Trump? I only say this in a constructive way, but he appears to be confused and inappropriate. A simple possibility is that he is sleep-deprived and may have a mild early Alzheimer’s disease. Another factor is that most of his life, he has been catered to because of his and his father’s wealth. In the world of business, making money is primary — ideas, ideals, and strict ethics are mostly ignored. Many types of coercion and manipulation are successful and practiced; but are not appropriate or effective for a USA President. His early training emphasized winning, and when confronted and confused, he often reverts back to a description of a winning event. He almost always tries to destroy critics, because he was able to do this in business and limit their effectiveness.

Environmental Protections. If you ask a majority of the people, whether environmental protections are needed for their health and reasonable comfort, most would say yes. Yet we now have an EPA director, Scott Pruitt, that has worked for years against the agency. Very rich folks can find ways to avoid environmental toxins, but millions of American citizens are vulnerable. The wealthy can live far away from industrial polluters where the air is clean, buy expensive water purifiers, have their houses inspected for asbestos, mold, lead, and other toxins. One would have to be very ruthless to allow such dangers.

Loyal Appointees. Having Trump appointees or Republican friends investigate his administration for questionable associations with Russia is like the fox guarding the henhouse.  A primary concern for him is loyal appointees, such as Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, because he needs protection from Congressional investigations.  That protection for Trump and staff was more important than Sessions’ character and bad reputation.

Admiration for Tyrants. Why would a president, who is working for the people, admire the control that certain tyrants (like Putin and Kim Jong-un) have over their citizens. He says they are bad, but praises the way they dominate. There is no value to freedom of expression, criticism, and argument in his mind. He wonders why the press is against him. What intelligent citizen would tolerate his lies/mistakes, his promotion of violence (during the campaign), his impossible promises, his ridiculous bragging, and his pathetic and obsessive attacks on critics.

Relation to Intelligence Units. Can a USA President really function without the support and aid of a fully functional and capable intelligence system? With very few exceptions, these agencies have served Presidents for decades with devotion, honesty and effectiveness. It is only a president that has something to hide, must be in total control, and hires radicals, that cannot work with the established intelligence agencies. (Note, very recently he is doing better with the intelligence units.)

Iran Nuclear Deal. The President would like to abolish the Iran Nuclear Deal, ignoring the fact that many major nations, including China, Russia, France, Germany, and the EU participated in the agreement. Without this deal, Iran would be free to build the bombs — what then? And would our allies still respect us? And who says that Trump could make a better deal. Does he have a long successful record (or any record) of making treaties with other countries? He can only brag and hope.

Climate Change Hoax? The president says man-made climate change is a hoax and he promotes the use of fossil fuels that increase CO2 in the air. He ruthlessly supports industry with the excuse of promoting jobs. A better plan with long-term benefits is to promote alternate forms of energy, more research, and retraining workers that have lost their jobs. The cost is less than flooded cities, rapid changes in drought and rainy areas, and dealing with resulting massive migrations. We will also benefit from cleaner air with more use of electrical energy.

Insidious Corruption. A lot can be said about the past corruption of our government and institutions by Republicans; and Trump may be continuing this process. His cabinet now has several billionaires and major investment firm executives. He is trying to diminish government regulations that keep people safe. He is unlikely to promote the removal of tax loopholes and low tax rates for the very wealthy, which will be costly for the non-rich financially or in reduced benefits from social programs. These are just a few areas of corruption. I detail many other types in my past blogs, and these are also detailed in major newspapers.

Two Messages. When a different message is sent by Trump and one of his staff, who should we believe? One possibility is that Trump really wants to send two messages, one to his loyal supporters and one to world leaders and more intelligent U.S. citizens.  Depending on the current situation, he can refer back to either one: what he said or what, for example, what Mike Pence said. He knows that his original, poorly educated fans, only listen to him.  And I suspect that the best indicator of policy comes from his more reasonable staff. Currently, several of his appointees are knowledgeable and sensible so there is a slight hope for us.

94. Katy Tur Wins a Medal

15 Feb

As a political blogger, I listen to many news programs every day. I am disappointed with the vast majority of interviewers and interviews by a basically liberal or moderate newsman who misses the important points and is pathetic in allowing false statements to go unanswered.

Today (2/15/17), Katy Tur (MSNBC early afternoon) put all the others to shame in an interview with a republican Congressman. A major part of the interview was concerned with Michael Flynn and leaked news. She was not perfect (who is?) but was right on the mark 95% of the time. The Congressman was forced to pivot and was clearly beaten on the main points.

I invite Katy Tur to come over to my place for a medal presentation ceremony. I haven’t yet bought the medal, but if she agrees to come, I will find something metallic and shiny. Kidding aside, Katy is a hero, courageous, and an outstanding journalist. Our fearless President knows it and that is why she is a recipient of some of the worst attacks. Bravo!

When we see the Republican attacks on the U.S. press, the fourth component of our governmental system, we know that our democracy is fully functional.

85. We Need Change ?

17 Jan

Trump is the man who will make “change” and deliver us from big, bad government. He is not a politician, he needs no donors, ignore what he says because there is goodness in his heart, he is smarter than the generals (and just about everyone else), all past negotiations are pathetic, and he will rid us of ISIS in a month. He is never wrong and will make you suffer for any criticism. He almost never addresses the criticism itself, but instead attacks the person who made it (even the Pope).

He paints a picture of a failing nation with incompetent leaders and government workers, rampant crime, poor negotiation, widespread poverty, etc. — “things could not be worse.” Black people have not made any progress — an insult to the millions that are doing well and have even achieved the presidency. His motto is “make American great again” without any explanation of when, how, and the meaning of “great.”

.                 False, rigid beliefs interfere with common sense

The Trump movement shows how many people are prisoners of their false and rigid beliefs, and cannot see the obvious and exercise common sense. Sad to say, there are many who voted for Trump just as a protest or just to do something based on frustration. Those persons may be responsible for a new direction leading to our country’s decline. Impulsive superficial voting may be the end of our world leadership and all of the good things developed to date. Trump will make change, but change for the better is unlikely. Here are some possible changes that have been mentioned at least once (but may have been retracted and/or restored at some time):

1. Changed healthcare legislation will cause millions to lose their insurance and many will die.

2. NATO is obsolete. Our long-standing, beneficial, and powerful pact with many nations is under threat.

3. Instead of sanctioning Russia, we will support their authoritarianism, attacks on the press, and take- over of countries like Ukraine. We will ignore their meddling in our elections and their efforts to undermine many nations.

4. We will pull out of the multi-nation “Iran Nuclear Deal”, allowing Iran to go back to making the bombs and delivery systems — prevented by the Deal. We will also pull out of climate-change treaties, which could prevent massive flooding (Florida, NY, etc) and catastrophic human migrations due to massive droughts.

5. Taxes for the very wealthy will be lowered by decreasing the tax rate and by allowing more loopholes. The rich will celebrate while the rest of us will either pay more tax or have reduced benefits — and/or our national debt will surge.

6. We will change trade policies and tariffs so that trade-wars will arise and prices for goods, everywhere, will increase. The chaos will affect our valuable relationships with long-standing allies.

7. Pres. Obama has at times been criticized for inaction, but Trump may impulsively engage us in wars, costing lives and greater national debt.

8. He may generate more terrorists by his abuse of Muslims, various other insults, and dangerous policies.

9. Our valuable press, which is required to keep our democracy honest, may be thrown out of the White House and attacked so viciously that it is ineffective. If Trump’s ideas are so laudable and clearly beneficial, why all the press criticism?

10. Is anyone suspicious of the fact that Trump’s cabinet is filled with extremely rich people and/or persons with questionable histories.

11. Trump would restore vicious torture and wants to keep Guantanamo prison. He also admires the strength of tyrants around the world. Are we setting a good example (under Trump) for the rest of the world? Traditionally the USA has been known for its might, and also its moral authority. Is Trump leading us in the right direction?

After Trump is in office for a while, the appreciation for the positive change that Pres. Obama caused will grow even more.  And the candidate, Hilary Clinton, that Obama so enthusiastically endorsed and was attacked so unmercifully by the GOP will be much more appreciated.  Ironically, she won the national vote count by almost three million.

Just added: I have been working on this blog for several days and at times almost scrapped it, because it may have been too negative. But after hearing Trump’s unnecessary and incorrect abuse of the civil-rights hero and self-sacrificing activist, Congressman John Lewis … well, here it is.

84. DJT Deviates from Norm

7 Jan

I am a behavioral scientist that has spent most of his adult life studying and describing human interactions . Our top government officials have a tradition of polite and respectful communication. But when I turn my attention to the President-Elect, I see features that fall well out of the range of normal adult behavior — and could be disastrous for a U.S. president.

For a long time, I have observed Trump’s bizarre actions and I am pleased to note that many others, such as Joe Biden, Keith Olbermann, Ken Burns, and major newspaper editors, have also made these observations. The possible dangers of a Trump presidency include: unnecessary wars, alienation of our allies, markedly increased national debt, suppression of the press, persecution of political enemies, corruption of elections, weakening of our intelligence agencies, loss of citizen rights, and radical citizen reactions, such as a national strike. Here is what I observed:

1. A common observation is that he is “childish”. Note the uncontrollable petty revenge, the nasty name calling, and “locker room talk.”

2. His rate of lying (or mistakes) is well beyond any normal range; about half of everything he says is either totally false or an extreme exaggeration. Many writers have fact-checked and documented the false statements, so I will not list them here. Whether Trump is actually lying or seriously mistaken, is not important; either way is unacceptable.

.          PERSONAL WINNING IS HIS MAIN GOAL AND BOAST
3. He states his admiration for various tyrants, such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi. These, of course, were not total endorsements, but in every case he admired how these tyrants were able to control their citizens. Their many abuses and torture of dissidents did not seem to trouble him, his interest was in their ability to win and succeed. Could any normal responsible person express this admiration of tyranny. Trump’s main goal is to “win the game”, not to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.

4. His political candidate speeches mostly emphasize his wins and popularity, rather than his proposed ideas and policies. His proposals are mostly slogans, rather than detailed concrete plans. He knows more than the generals, the intelligence agencies, politicians, etc. Almost always, his main focus is on himself rather than national or global issues.

5. Without sufficient research and without actually being president, he meddles in international relations, such as his contact with Taiwan, which caused an angry response from China.

6. He refuses to comply with traditional presidential rules, such as making public his tax returns and creating a blind trust for his enterprises to avoid conflicts of interest.

7. He supports the torture of political prisoners, even beyond water-boarding. He would “murder” the families of terrorists, without cause or evidence.

I could mention other outlandish things, but I want to start an analysis of how these characteristics came about. The most striking thing about Trump’s development is his access to great wealth, continuously, starting in childhood. He was given huge amounts of money, but also had the ultimate backing of family wealth. I also suspect that his father and others encouraged him to be BOLD. He said almost anything that supported his agenda at the time — whether true or false. Having huge amounts of money caused opportunists to ignore the lies, and others, including the press, were intimidated by his reputation for revenge and his threats of law suits. Up until his recent candidacy there were few punishments for lies and much encouragement for his stated agendas. The very rich live in a different world, with yes-men and obsequious supporters.

He learned that aggressive threats of law suits tended to stop criticism. If he said something obviously wrong, he could say he was being sarcastic or was just joking. Even after he won the primaries, the press and others mostly overlooked the obvious falsehoods and impossible proposals, encouraging the bizarre ideas. After many years of living in this strange world of unrealistic support, he became more and more confident, engaged in bolder endeavors, and felt that his abilities were limitless.

In addition to the behavioral science factors discussed above, the role of inadequate sleep and Alzheimer’s disease should be considered.