Tag Archives: politics

104. Underemphasized Political Facts

5 May

I listen to a lot of political commentators and government leaders. It disturbs me that many important factors are rarely mentioned. Here is a list of very important facts that should affect political judgments:

1. The inheritance tax (a.k.a. death tax) is only for very rich folks and starts at $5.45 million. So when GOP people want to end it, it is done to support millionaires and take money away from us.

2. Tax simplification does not help ordinary folks, as their tax is already simple. It helps rich folks cheat, because there are fewer rules governing their very complex returns. Fewer tax categories are always designed by Republicans to make rates lower for high earners, not you and me.

3. When highly respected conservative George Will says a fellow Republican, Donald Trump, cannot “think and speak clearly”, it is significant.

4. Scientists have found that lack of sleep seriously promotes Alzheimer’s disease. Pres. Trump brags about the little time he devotes to sleeping.

5. Those who believe that Bill Clinton’s affairs tarnish his wife Hillary, should recognize that Trump, the actual candidate, has worse transgressions.

6. In Trump’s recent interactions with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he was the losing negotiator. Trump was forced to reverse his accusation of currency manipulation while China only reinforced previous policies.

7. Our House of Reps. just passed a healthcare bill for which there was little time to read and discuss, and was not evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office. This bill is also not consistent with Trump’s many promises, which proves he has no ideals and just supports rich Republicans and himself.

8. There is a tendency for commentators to look for one cause for each result. The recent Dem. loss by Hillary is one such case. Most likely, is that a combination of 7 or 8 factors (mostly “dirty tricks”) lead to the defeat. Please see my Blog Number 95.

9. Trump would have lost most of his followers if he told them in advance of his cabinet choices of several Wall Street billionaires, and his extreme conflicts with personal business interests. He has not done any divesting.

10. In the last 50 years or so, Republicans have always favored very rich folks over ordinary citizens. This is clear if you go to GOP candidate web-sites and examine their U.S. Budget plans. Current plans are to increase U.S. debt by lowering taxes for the rich, and offset this with reductions in services and programs for the rest of us.

11. FBI Director Comey has excuses for making announcements of Hillary investigations, but the bottom line is that he violated Justice Dept. rules. Almost all FBI investigations are secret and not announced until the final result. Investigations of Republicans were secret.

12. Republicans want to decrease regulations because that helps their rich industrial donors and Wall Street.  But most regulations are designed to protect the citizens from air and water pollution, hazards in the workplace and elsewhere, and taxpayer bail outs for bankrupt financial institutions.  Regulations are based on actual abuses and now are being eliminated in a secretive way.  There are supposed to be hearings on such matters.

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.

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.