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.

98. Teen Trump Discovers Healthcare

28 Feb

During my long life, I have had a number of contacts with teenagers. Some of the brighter ones recognize that they have much to learn, and others just assume that when they discover something, no one else knew it.  I think that most older adults are familiar the “know-it-all” teenagers.  It is sad to say that our 45th president, often having the intellect of a know-it-all teenager, has just discovered Healthcare.

Before he talked about it, teen Trump could have spent just an hour or two in research and immediately figured out that our healthcare system is extremely complicated. He could have asked specialists who wrote the ACA (Obamacare) law and others, to explain it’s intricacies. Instead, after making numerous remarks about immediately abolishing the law, he now says:

“Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated”

I think even the “know-it-all” teenager would not say something as naive as this.
Here are a few more teen Trump assertions:

“I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone”
“I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth”
“Nobody knows banking better than I do”
“I understand money better than anybody.”
“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.”

(Please see Aaron Blake, Washington Post, October 4, 2016 as a reference and for more examples.)

Why didn’t his original supporters realize that the Presidency is not an entry-level position and that it’s not OK to serve with on-the-job training? Well, I guess we have to accept the fact that many of them are not knowledgeable  — and they were caught-up in the thrill of racism, violence, and over simplification. They knew and teen Trump knew that foreign policy, military actions, trade laws, treaties, education, technology and so forth are all trivial, and a great builder of buildings can master anything in a few hours.

After just a few weeks in office, teen Trump has made a mess of most everything he has done and the few positives, like the Carrier Co employee situation, are just tokens, having no substantial value. He has come up with incredibly valuable plans for making America Great, and defeating enemies like ISIS, but alas, cannot reveal any of the details. The most serious mess is his cozy relationship with Russia’s Putin.  Blackmail and election interference are possibilities that need investigation by fully independent parties.

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.

95. A Combination of Factors Sunk Dems.

17 Feb

Whenever a Republican is questioned about a “dirty trick” like Russians influencing the election, they always say something like: well it may have happened but certainly could not have affected the final outcome. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority leader said approximately that. Here is a list of factors, each of which may be too small by itself, but COMBINED certainly could have swung the recent Presidential election:

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. This factor by itself may not have swung the election, but combined with all the other tricks, likely did.
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. This factor by itself may not have swung the election, but combined with all the other tricks, likely did.
3. I mentioned above the Russian 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. This factor by itself may not have swung the election, but combined with all the other tricks, likely did.
4. Hillary was dogged by numerous unjustified and redundant congressional investigations, which ultimately led to nothing. This factor by itself may not have swung the election, but combined with all the other tricks, likely did.
5. Women that Hillary’s husband had affairs with were paraded in the audience during one of the debates. This factor by itself may not have swung the election, but combined with all the other tricks, likely did.
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. This factor by itself may not have swung the election, but combined with all the other tricks, likely did.

The Democrats did not run a perfect campaign, but the six factors above, when combined certainly could be enough to change the outcome. It is a nasty trick to focus on one factor and say that it could not have had an affect. Many Democrats are fighting for justice, but Republican tricks are endless. I could have mentioned gerrymandering election districts, fear mongering, numerous lies, and self-serving exaggerations. Look at the Supreme Count nominee that Pres. Obama put forward, that was not even given an up or down vote.
As I think about the first month of Trump’s Presidency, I am reminded of John Dean, the White House Counsel for President Nixon, and his prophetic remark in 1973 that there is a cancer on the presidency.

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.

93. Trump Chaos Easing Off (2 days later, maybe not)

14 Feb

Up until yesterday, the new administration was very disconcerting and disappointing — but this was not unexpected. Cabinet appointments were inappropriate, a directive was declared unconstitutional, there were violations of divesting rules, illegal foreign contacts, angry international phone calls, etc., and a lot of fast-talking and naive ideas. Since I mentioned fast-talking, I have to note that the really fast talkers are Kellyanne Conway and Shephen Miller, both rumored to be state-of-the-art robots programmed for double talk and downloaded each morning with alt-facts to confuse “tweet” critics.

But today, February 14, 2017, I see some improvements. “In-like-flynn” security advisor Michael Flynn is out — very significant. Trump has accepted the “One-China” concept, which is so important for this vital relationship. He is rewriting his Travel Ban directive so that it is more workable and less damaging to some of our foreign friends, and of course, he has accepted (and better understands) the judicial actions. It appears that he is accepting for now, the Iran-Nuclear-Deal, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and some other commitments and policies of the Pres. Obama Administration.

The ObamaCare (ACA) law is under scrutiny, but ironically may survive because any substantially different replacement plan developed by Republicans would be worse for them. Ironic, because of their numerous attempts to abolish it. Keeping the important rules like “pre-existing conditions” need to be paid for by the “mandate” (everyone must have insurance or pay a fine) or will break the budget. The best choice is to have Medicare for everyone but the GOP cannot disappoint the billionaires that run our health insurance companies and provide for their extravagant life-styles. To take insurance away from 20 million people and to take away the other popular features (like no life-time or annual limits) is too disastrous for now and future elections. ObamaCare is supported by a majority of our citizens, who would like it kept and improved. It appears that the new government is recognizing this.

We are indeed lucky to have a few sensible additions to the cabinet such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. I admit to being skeptical about Tillerson, but when I heard his speech to the State Department I was impressed by his intelligence and social skills. His rise to leadership of Exxon required great skills. He has the capability and knowledge to be a real asset. I am rooting for the two of them and a few others, to help Trump with major decisions. I also think some members of his “greater” family can encourage reasonable and maybe even progressive ideas. He has stated that Ivanka is a good influence.

The American “ship of state” is heavy and an almost irresistible object. Altering its main course is extremely difficult. It can force any irresponsible or reckless leadership into a more traditional and safer track. Donald Trump now has more appreciation for the complexities and difficulties in making presidential decisions.