Tag Archives: Congress

110. 260-Days of Trump

11 Oct

What is the state of our union after 260 days of D. Trump (DT) in office?

The most serious situation that our nation faces, is the threat of a war with North Korea, and even worse, the path to a World War III. What Trump says in this respect, may be the usual scattered thinking. But a possibility is that he is truly focused on bringing the greatest possible pressure on KJU to back down and stop making nukes. That is why he was angry with Rex Tillerson because negotiation efforts would dilute the powerful pressure. But as usual, no one really knows exactly what DT was thinking.

Diagnosing Trump has become very popular. One of the latest contributions to this topic is a book by Bandy X. Lee et. al.: The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. Dr. Brandy Lee (no relation to me) is a forensic psychiatrist and a member of the Yale faculty. She and her co-authors have distinguished careers. Needless to say, this book documents abnormalities and makes recommendations regarding his use of our nuclear arsenal. As I have stated in previous blogs, I think that DT has at least a moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and according to recent research, his confessed lack of sleep would be a major contributor to this condition. Sleep is the only time that waste products in the brain are washed out. When your brain is full of waste, Alzheimer’s progresses. This involves a gradual loss of memory and mental functioning.

An extremely destructive goal of Trump is to attack the legacy of Barack Obama. DT does not have any goals that benefit our country in general; his emphasis is only on winning and keeping foolish campaign promises. The first repeal and replacement of ObamaCare by the House was labeled by DT as “mean.” Later he wanted to pass a similar Senate bill at any cost, regardless of content. With no regard to the terrible effects, he has worked to destroy such Obama accomplishments as Iran Nuclear Deal, the Paris Climate Agreement, various trade agreements, DAKA immigration order, and various orders and legislation related to financial regulations. He also is reducing science research funds and changing science policies, which can affect our world leadership in this vital area. On the other hand, China is increasing its science budget and may take over world leadership in this area. Since much of manufacturing and related research is based on science, this would give China (and maybe other countries) a major financial advantage.

An ongoing and shabby situation is that Trump’s cabinet members are often at odds with the President. His staff has traveled all over the world trying to assure leaders that Trump will back them up and accept existing treaties. Failures in this area are dangerous and can cause some allies to join with Russia or China. Many feel that the major role of several cabinet members is to “contain” DT and keep him from making destructive statements and tweets.

A few Republican Congressmen are starting to directly attack DT’s  competence. Senator Bob Corker has been blunt is his criticism and Senate leader Mitch McConnell has supported Corker.

Polls have indicated a decreased voter support with respect to trust and accomplishments. His only clear accomplishment was not legislative, but was the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice (Neil Gorsuch) — a trivial thing since the Senate is GOP controlled.

Trump has alienated and belittled numerous Republican leaders that are necessary for passing legislation he backs. There are many more than the few mentioned above. He has also insulted a Gold Star family, numerous reporters, and black athletes that are trying to fight unfair treatment by police. On the other hand, his condemnation of Neo-Nazis, KKK, etc., was weak and only approached what is appropriate, when reading speeches prepared by others. His instinct to keep all supporters regardless of character supersedes any moral imperative.

Certainly, one could write a book about these first 259 days in office. I see this period as a steady decline of effectiveness and general support — and legitimate polls agree. Recently, I have been wondering whether the election of Trump represents a fate for the USA, like the fall of the Roman Empire. Avoiding this “fall” could be impeachment, but having Mike Pence as President could be worse, and the impeachment process is long and debilitating. What is already happening and may increase is to contrive legislation and a cabinet structure to contain and ignore Trump actions. But “containment” will not prevent the confusion and alienation caused by his Tweets and spontaneous utterances. Although disadvantageous in many ways, I do advocate impeachment.

Just in, as I am writing this blog! Relevant to USA downfall is more information on Russian ads that influenced the election. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all were used by Russians and all the CEO’s have attempted to suppress this info. Our survival is truly affected the influence of foreign powers. When will DT and Republicans awake and put our country on the right track?

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105. Balancing Rich vs. Poor

8 Jul

Our country (USA) now has a certain established income (mostly from tax), and established expenditures. An increase or decrease in any source of income or expense will, as a general rule, either raise or lower the nation debt. To keep the budget constant and free of debt increase, you must keep all parts of it about the same, or set up see-saw rules: up in one area, down in another, and visa-versa. (These rules hold in general, but there can be minor complications.)

So if someone proposes more military spending then there will be less for other areas, for example, infrastructure spending. If we take away huge amounts of income by lowering taxes for the rich, then there could be less for Medicaid, education, environmental protection, or something else.

Trump and Republicans have always proposed decreasing our national income by lowering wealthy taxes. This by itself would increase the national debt. Further, Trump wants to greatly increase military spending. So now we have a lot of spending, with the consequence that other programs will suffer. Rich folks will buy more luxury items, and will be more effective in influencing Congress. And poor people will suffer as their special programs (such as Medicaid) will be diminished. There is a clear ethical problem: less luxury for millionaires (even billionaires) versus the deaths of people who lack health care.

For Trump, having a powerful military is very important because it is helpful in coercion, forcing other countries to go along with his plans. After all, his political and negotiating skills don’t seem to be very good, so he needs a very powerful military to get his way. Also, his political mistakes can be minimized by showing off his military might — similar to the displays of armaments by North Korea.

Another bonus for very rich people would be eliminating the inheritance tax. The cut-off for this tax is the inheritance of five-million dollars so it only applies to rich folk. The vast majority of U.S. citizens support the continuation of this tax.  I have noticed that when Trump mentions inheritance tax, it is very quickly and with a lowered voice.

If the Republicans can achieve the above goals, which make wealthy people even richer, then these are some of the areas that could be adversely affected:
education, health care, State Department functions, Planned Parenthood, Medicaid, Medicare, infrastructure improvement, scientific research, medical research, various tech programs, environmental protections, etc. Let’s ask Trump to do with the Military, what he has proposed in other situations — lets hold the extra spending and make it more efficient instead.

 

101. Worldwide Chaos?

26 Apr

Is there “worldwide chaos” or is it normal to have a certain amount of danger, struggle and warfare. I feel that recently, chaos has taken a step upward,
and there is more to be concerned with now — particularly in the USA — than in the last several years.

Here is a list of factors that currently are particularly disturbing:
1. Endless war in Syria and the resulting massive migrations.
2. Our current leader, Trump, is unprepared for high office, and lacks “ideals.”
3. Brexit: Britain leaving the European Union.
4. Russian attack of Ukraine.
5. Israel and Palestinian endless conflict.
6. Worldwide terrorism, including the dangers of ISIS, Taliban, others.
7. Failure of many leaders to recognize climate-change danger.
8. In some countries there is assassination of reporters and dissidents.
9. Greedy leaders scam the citizens, promoting personal wealth for a few.
10. Significant interference in USA elections by a foreign power (Russia).
11. Christianity and Islam sometimes are compatible, but often clash.

The search for chaos “causes” can take many forms, and for most important events, there are many factors that can be causal. There are many places to start the search. I believe a good point is the industrial revolution, usually dated from about 1760 to 1830.

As governments and technology developed, there was a parallel evolution of greed and corruption. The basic principle is that in any society or nation, a few aggressive and intelligent citizens will become leaders. As they improve their political skills, they learn how to communicate with citizens to achieve power, and to make use of rich donors. Congressmen are “bribed to help the wealthy with tax breaks and loopholes, and subsidies, creating a financial cycle: rich donors support desirable legislation and in turn, get even richer.

Once in office for a few years, they also can become adept at increasing their personal wealth. It is a matter of “learning” and of the eventual irresistible temptation to become richer. Those in office gradually separate from the people and form what could be called a “royalty” class. In many cases, a leader that starts out with good intentions will eventually fall into corruption.

The end result of this process of corruption is often violent or non-violent revolution. Excessive greed at the top will produce more poverty and more poor people. This has taken place for centuries, but recent improvement in communication, like the Internet, focused on this oppression, and helped with the organization of protest. One result was the “Arab Spring”, which began in Tunisia around 2010. Revolutions in Egypt and several other countries followed. Syria was the worst case, resulting in a disastrous deadlock between rebels and its President.

So a basic cause for much of the current world crisis is the rise of a greedy “Royalty Class” in many countries (even in the USA). The Syrian disaster became a basic cause to many other international problems. War in Syria resulted in a massive migration to other countries. This refugee problem I see as the major cause of BREXIT, the rise of Pres. Trump, and perhaps the rise of ISIS and other terrorist activity. In the US, the fear of refugees was recognized by Donald Trump, and promoted by him.

Here is a summary of some major (not all) causal links:

The rise of technology was accompanied by gradual governmental corruption.
Greedy and corrupt leaders exploit the citizens and increase poverty.
Citizens, helped mostly by the Internet, discover the corruption.
They are able to organize and revolt in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, etc.
The revolution in Syria caused massive migration and associated fears.
Migration fears caused Brexit, the rise of Trump, terrorism, ISIS?, etc.

Final thought. I have condensed what could be a whole book, into a brief blog.
My purpose here, is to promote thought and analysis. As ordinary citizens better understand the world, it can become a better place.

100. Basic Causes of Greatest Concern

10 Mar

In my 100 blogs to date, I have tried to cover important governmental, social, medical, and related issues, that profoundly affect our way of life. In this, my 100th blog, I will list some of our most significant current issues, and maybe some possible solutions. I know that my blogs are sometimes imperfect and not very original, but my purpose is to increase the number of voices urging important changes and understanding. So here is a list of ideas to emphasize:

Our American founding fathers when creating the Constitution and other rules, were afraid of the kind of populism that we see today. So they tried to move important decisions away from the ordinary citizens and towards more responsible and intelligent leaders. Here are two examples supporting this lack of trust:
1. The establishment of an electoral college, to prevent direct citizen voting.
2. Until 1913, senators were elected by state legislatures, and not the people.
The founding fathers were afraid that ordinary people could be scammed by unscrupulous politicians. They anticipated someone like our current President.

Societies that over emphasize capitalism and the importance of financial success, foster corruption so that clever manipulators accumulate vast wealth, much of which belongs to the people. It is apparent that anyone (or party) in office for a long time will drift away from the people’s needs and develop methods for increasing their wealth. These methods include donating to Congressmen who will legislate tax loopholes and unfair subsidies.

An age requirement for U.S. President is not enough. Tax returns must be required and other financial and business details provided. It is too easy for very rich people, once in office, to make decisions best for their businesses and not for the country. A notable example is the transport minister for Azerbaijan, formerly a part of the Soviet Union. His covert construction contracting, participation in money laundering schemes, and wide-ranging contacts made him extremely rich at the expense of the citizens.

Corruption and unjustified accumulation of wealth, is not limited to politicians. Almost every vital service needed by the people, such as healthcare, education, and insurance, has cheated the citizens and made administrators (and others) hugely wealthy. Many of these rich people donate to Congress and through resulting legislation, make themselves even richer. Donations to congressmen has shifted vast amounts of money away from ordinary citizens, to undeserving administrators (making many millions of dollars). For example, median total compensation for ceos of major teaching non-profit hospitals is 1.35 million. Many make much more. Is it right that many millions of dollars are given to hospital administrators while poor people are being rejected (even die) for lack of insurance? Important services should be provided by the government at little or no cost. I feel that administrators and certain others should be allowed to become somewhat rich, but not extremely so.

Clarification: All “Western” or developed countries are a combination of capitalism with some socialistic features. Pure capitalism allows the unlimited accumulation of wealth with no financial protections for the citizens. Pure socialism is an economy totally controlled and owned by the state. In the USA (and many other major countries) capitalism is primary, and there are “social programs” in areas such as healthcare, education, and supporting the poor. Shifting some funds from the very rich to the very poor through taxation changes and programs like Medicaid is not “socialism,” it is simply the addition of a “social program.”

Last but not least, is the unethical and self-serving practices of many doctors, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners. Diagnoses and treatments are often are more determined by cash-flow than by what is most beneficial for the patient. Here are some examples. In the area of severe back-pain, diagnosis is usually a defect in the spine, and the possibility of simple excessive muscle strain and tension is ignored. Procedures for spinal defects are very expensive whereas procedures for muscle tension simply involve (at no cost) frequent muscle stretching. Here is an example from dentistry. Several years ago, my teeth would develop a dark blue hue, which could be removed by a professional teeth cleaning. Two dentists I went to urged me to double my teeth cleaning sessions, and spent little effort in trying to determine the cause. Fortunately, I was able to figure this out myself, and saved a lot of expense. The blue colored mouthwash I was using, dyed the teeth, and there was even a warning on the label. I could provide a lot of other personal examples, and many are described in previous blogs. An excellent book on this subject is “Confessions of a Medical Heretic”, 1979, by Robert Mendelsohn, MD. This is an old book, but still very applicable to many current physicians (but definitely not all).

Is there a quick fix for all of the forementioned issues? No, but major efforts to improve education could be transformative. Knowledge is important, but developing an ability to reason and research is even more relevant. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that our current administration would fear a well-informed electorate.

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.

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.

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.