Saturday, December 31, 2016
Thursday, December 29, 2016
I have written many times about the situation in Israel on this blog. I support Israel; I do not support the actions of the Israeli government under Netanyahu.
I have repeatedly said that because I am not a citizen of Israel, I cannot tell that government what I want them to do. On the other hand, as a citizen of the United States, I can tell my government what I want them to do, and to offer my support for specific policy directions and legislation.
I have, therefore, sent messages to President Obama and Secretary Kerry thanking therm for this decision, and supporting their policy.
I read the resolution; I find it balanced and important.
I read the official statement by U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power; it is balanced and an important policy statement.
I watched the entire speech by Secretary Kerry on the subject of Israel and Palestine; it is a powerful and important policy speech and, in my opinion, says things that absolutely needed to be said.
Political analysts, U.S. Presidents-to-be, pundits, officials on all sides and a plethora of political hacks have engaged in the on-going media fire fight over this Obama administration policy choice. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has had public temper tantrums over this development. And yes, there is Twitter. Everyone has an opinion, and that is as it should be.
Only time will tell what the outcome will be in the 50-year and counting conflict in Israel/Palestine (since the 1967 war when the occupation began). I, and many in the world, have grown beyond weary of this conflict. Both sides need to find a resolution, and yet both sides seem incapable or not interested in ending the conflict.
The Obama position is moot in the face of the Trump ascendency. All signs indicate that the Trump administration will support the continuation of settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and that Trump and Netanyahu will be perfect partners in continuing the conflict. I hope I'm wrong, but it's a tiny glimmer of hope.
Saturday, December 17, 2016
- the Electoral College
- cyber attacks, or hacking, apparently sponsored by Russia
- an announcement by the Director of the FBI late in the campaign concerning the emails of one candidate while she was Secretary of State
- fake news on the internet, specifically social media
- and finally, a consistent pattern of telling lies, validating fake news, and attacking women, immigrants, minorities and other groups of “others” by one of the candidates.
- research the process of confirmation hearings that will start in January and understand which Senate committees will have hearings for each nomination;
- determine which committees, if any, the Senators from your state are on
- call your Senator’s office often to urge them to ask specific questions, or to vote no on specific confirmations
- understand that it is extremely rare for presidential nominations to not be confirmed; however, the more truths that are revealed in the process, the more information we have to use in future actions
- track pending legislation at the federal level in the House and Senate
- there are numerous on-line sites that track legislation
- bookmark and visit the websites of your progressive representatives; they post information about pending legislation
- call or email your representatives to urge them to support, or not support, critical legislation
- be a resource for your friends and family for this information and actions
- focus on facts; point out lies (social media is a great place for this)
- write letters to the editor of local newspapers
- do all of the above at the state and local level
- find organizations that work on issues important to you and support and join their efforts
- be smart about your choices; which issues are most critical, and does the organization have a strategy that builds community and cooperation with people focused on other issues?
- build community; reach out beyond your comfortable inner circle; meet new people; diversify your sphere of friends and acquaintances; focus on inclusion, understanding, building-up.
- Paul of the United States (POTUS). This is the speech I had hoped our President would give. He did, however, say a lot of this in his last press conference, which is very much worth listening to or watching.
- Popular votes: Clinton 65,762,564; Trump 62,914,474. Electoral college votes: Trump 306; Clinton 232.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016 (H. R. 5732) passed the House of Representatives, and has now been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Here is a link to the membership of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. If a Senator from your state is on the committee, call her/him and say that you support, and urge the Senator to support passage of the Caesar Bill, HR 5732.
If you live in a state that does not have a member on the committee, call your senator anyway and ask him/her to encourage their colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee to support the bill.
The full text of the bill is here. Passage of the bill will result in a variety of sanctions against Syria and it's partners-in-crime Russia and Iran.
Here is some info about the bill:
Sunday, December 11, 2016
- Donald Trump won the electoral votes for President of the United States;
- Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by >2.5 million;
- The CIA has concluded that the government of Russia, using cyber attacks, influenced the US election in favor of Donald Trump.
- December 19, 2016: the Electoral College in each state will meet to officially cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States;
- December 28, 2016: the votes from each state must be received no later than this date by the President of the Senate (the Vice President)
- January 6, 2017: Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes (Congress may pass a law to change this date); the President of the Senate (the Vice President) presides over the vote count, and announces the winner, if any, of the contest for President and Vice President;
- January 20, 2017: the President-elect takes the Oath of Office and becomes President of the United States.
And now Donald Trump. In what I have called his "Cabinet of Deplorables," Trump is assembling a group of government leaders who will take office with the intent of tearing apart the very fabric of our society. They go into office with the goal of rolling back regulations, greasing the skids for corporations and the wealthy to make even more unfettered profits, establishing economic policies that will benefit the wealthy and harm everyone else. Trump will not and cannot save jobs in America. Trump cannot and will not "make America great again;" whatever that means.
Let me be perfectly clear: Donald Trump is a bad, dangerous person. And as President, he will be a total disaster for America and the world. As I have said before, I respect the office of President of the United States; I do not, and will never respect Donald Trump. I will not look the other way now. I will not pretend that he didn't say so many horrific things as a candidate. I will not put aside my doubts and fears because he is the President-elect, and we citizens must accept that fact. I will not comply, and I will fight him all the way, until his minions have to pry my copy of the Constitution from my cold, dead hands!
I was mistaken after 11/8 when I blithely stated that Trump had won the election, and that we all needed to accept that fact and figure out how to deal with it. I still think we need to accept that fact, but we also need to come together around one very clear objective: fight Trump and the Trumpsters every inch of the way. Those of us who are opposed to everything Trump stands for, and I believe our numbers will grow as his term plays out, need to be focused and organized. If we continue to be fragmented into single-issue camps, we will be doomed.
I'm seeing a groundswell of political activity in my circle of family and friends. This is encouraging. This activity will continue to build; we must be up-and-running as soon as The DOTUS (The Donald of the United States) takes office next month. I think many people are rolling up their sleeves, and I'm hopeful that we will resist to the greatest extent possible.
I am also looking for national leadership. I am hoping that progressives in government and citizen groups will pull together and develop a clear strategy for fighting back. We cannot afford to be fractionalized.
As we close out 2016, a year that will certainly be prominent in future history books, let us all resolve to work together, fight back, do everything we can to minimize the damage that looms ahead, and strive to make the world a better place for everyone.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
I've been thinking a lot lately about the words we use, and abuse. I think it is important to use words carefully, and not fall into a trap of using words that are popular, but not helpful. I think some words are overused, and used incorrectly, which diminishes their value, meaning and impact.
To illustrate this, I'll start with two very commonly used words in our political discourse: racism and Nazi (hoo-boy, just jump right into the fire!).
Racist (racism) - I personally think this term is very much overused and often used incorrectly. By labeling large groups of people and even individuals as "racists," we diminish the true meaning of the term. Example: "people who voted for Trump are racists," or "racism was behind the actions of the Republicans in Congress." It's too easy, and leads to lazy thinking. Paint everything as racism and eventually there is nothing but racism.
We need to think about and understand the distinctions between racism and bigotry, including unintentional bigotry. Here is a short post on the topic; it's a quick and interesting read.
And here are a couple of sociological definitions of racism: "By this sociological definition, racism is about much more than race-based prejudice--it exists when race is used to create an imbalance in power and social status." (1) and, "Policies and practices favorable to a dominant group and unfavorable to another group that are systematically embedded in the form of norms in the existing structure of society."(2)
I've selected the above definitions because they talk about systemic racism, rather than individual actions. Certainly, there are many common definitions of racism that focus on the individual; however, I prefer to look at the more scientific (sociological) meanings.
The term bigotry can be defined as: "Extreme intolerance of another person’s beliefs and opinions particularly racial or religious."(3) Again, this is a sociological definition of the term. A common definition (bigot) is: "a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc., a bigoted person; especially a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)" (4).
So, what's the big deal? Well, I think it is critically important for everyone to understand that there is systemic racism in our society, and also that individuals in our society, most of us in fact, are bigoted, intentionally or unintentionally, when it comes to ideas, philosophies and people not like our own. By using more specific terms, we help ourselves and others understand the sociological and political distinctions, and our discussions are more focused. It is one thing to see blatant bigotry by individuals; it is another to understand how to see racism that is often hidden in plain view within our institutions.
Nazi - What is a Nazi? Standard definitions: "a member of a German political party that controlled Germany from 1933 to 1945 under Adolf Hitler," and, "an evil person who wants to use power to control and harm other people especially because of their race, religion, etc." (5). I prefer the firsts definition, rather than the second, for common usage.
I'll start this by asking you to read this short piece by Mike Godwin, the originator of Godwin's Law: “As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1.” (6) In the piece, Godwin discusses the uses of the terms Nazi, Hitler and holocaust in on-line discussions, and specifically regarding Trump.
Once again I argue that using the term Nazi when discussing Trump and Trumpism is not productive, and is actually counterproductive (with the possible exception of asking the question: "Is Trump a Nazi?"). The term is overused, and once again is, in my opinion, a lazy shortcut that doesn't help move a discussion forward. I do agree that there is great value in having the discussion about the conditions in America and American politics in the early 21st century, compared to those in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. There are certainly similarities, but there are also very distinct and important differences. To simply label Trump a Nazi is not productive.
I prefer to use the terms fascist and fascism. Hitler was a fascist, and many other national leaders have been or are fascists. These are more scientific (there I go again!) and lead to a discussion of political trends and positions and philosophies. Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, has a good column on this topic. He discusses the criteria of fascism, and concludes that Donald Trump is a proto-fascist, rather than a full-blown fascist; I agree with this conclusion. In my view Trump is not a Nazi; he does not belong to a Nazi party. I have posted to this blog about the trend towards fascism in America since the administration of George W. Bush, and Donald Trump is the current embodiment, and the most serious and dangerous person with fascist tendencies to be elected to be President of the United States.
Conclusion - So dear reader, think and talk about this one. Let's be careful with words. Let's be intentional with words so that we are very clear what we mean, and we can move discussion forward. It is easy, too easy, to simply use labels as a conclusion. It is much more difficult, and also much more important to get beyond labels and look at what's behind the curtain.
Notes and sources:
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
An organization calling itself Portland's Resistance has been leading protests in the streets of Portland since the election of Donald Trump as POTUS-Elect. The group is an outgrowth of the group Don't Shoot Portland combined with other political activists, which had it's origins in the Black Lives Matter movement. In my opinion, Portland's Resistance is off-track, and is doing more political harm than good.
This is a very important moment in modern U. S. History, in which we are poised to have a man in the office of President who will rebuild government in what history will certainly see as a negative direction. Many people will be harmed by the Trump administration, and U.S. democracy could be set back decades. This is a time that calls out for people to be united around basic principles of democracy, and to be organized at the community level to push back against egregious policies and directives that will certainly issue from the office of the President and the Republican-dominated Congress.
Portland's Resistance, originally conceived, I think, as a response to the Trump election, has instead gone to battle with the City of Portland. They have organized demonstrations that they have, in some ways, and to their credit, tried to keep peaceful. Some of these almost daily demonstrations have attracted known anarchists and provocateurs who are intent on vandalism and disruption. However, the organizers also seem to think that closing streets, bridges and freeways is an effective strategy. The resulting "peaceful" protests encourage people to disobey laws and police orders, and has resulted in more than 100 arrests. These disruptions of traffic are more than an "inconvenience" to Portlanders, as the organization and it's sympathizers claim. These actions are disruptions that have negative effects on people's lives, and do not garner support from those whose lives are disrupted. (And before you challenge me on this, dear readers, by disruptions I'm talking about people who are kept from getting to work on time, being on-time to pick up their children, getting to critical jobs at hospitals and nursing homes, and etc.)
How does closing down a street, bridge or freeway have any effect on the ascendency of the Trump administration? How do these actions bring our community together? Why are these actions positive in any way?
And now Portland's Resistance has shifted it's focus and declared the Mayor, the Police Bureau and even the City Council as the enemy!
The fascists are loving this. The actions of Portland's Resistance and similar groups are the wedges that keep progressive people apart, instead of uniting us. As an example, the Portland mayor announced a city-sponsored gathering of peace for today that was widely announced and supported by many groups and organizations in our city. It was announced at a huge community gathering of Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people a couple of nights ago, and hundreds, if not thousands of people pledged to attend. This morning, however, the Mayor pulled the plug on the peace gathering because Portland's Resistance called for a counter-demonstration against the gathering, on the basis of their claim of police brutality and lies from the Office of the Mayor in regards to the Portland's Resistance unruly demonstrations (three of the group's leaders were arrested yesterday during a demonstration).
I have posted previously about the trend of disrupting public meetings and gatherings in Portland. We are on the cusp of losing opportunities for police reform and other positive changes as a direct result of the disruptions to civic discourse by small bands of disrupters and provocateurs. This is not only disheartening, it is a clear sign that, unless we can figure out how to come together as a community around larger issues, we are doomed to suffer whatever the Trumpsters dish out.
I admire the political convictions of the Portland's Resistance leaders, and I applaud all people who see the need and take positive political action in this strange time. But goals and strategies need to be clearly developed in order to unite rather than fragment the majority of people in this country. We lost this election to extremists for a variety of reasons. A major reason is our fragmentation, our single-issue focus, our quickness to jump on political bandwagons without careful scrutiny.
Folks, we're in for a storm of political backwardness in this country. We need to switch into a build mode, not a destroy mode, and do it quickly.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Of the eligible voters in America, just under 100 million (100,000,000) DID NOT VOTE. I settled on this website for data, but there are others that might have somewhat different numbers. It is interesting to look at the data table at that link. Here is a quick summary:
Total number of Voter Eligible Population (VEP) in USA = 231,556,622
Total ballots counted (estimated) = 131,741,500
Number of VEP that did not vote = 99,815,122
Percent of VEP that voted = 56.9%
The state with the highest VEP turnout: Minnesota 74%
The state with the lowest VEP turnout: Hawaii 34%
My state of Oregon: 64%
Your state? ___%
Democracy only works as well as the voter turnout. As of this morning, the popular vote count was:
Difference between the two: 395,595 votes
(Note: don't try to add and compare numbers from different sources; they don't add up. Instead, look at the general trend or magnitude, that's the real story.)
And then there's this:
CONCLUSION: The Finger of Blame (Digit of Disgrace?) can be pointed in many, many directions. I don't agree that the blame lies with voters who checked the box for a third-party candidate, or wrote-in their own candidate (like Harumbe). No, I tend to look at the number of voters who voted for Donald Trump. As Nate Silver pointed out, if 1 of every 100 Trump voters (1%) had instead voted for Clinton, she would now be the President-elect.
(Also, the number of votes does not determine the winner, it is the Electoral College votes, so it is difficult to translate a raw number of votes into actual electoral votes. In other words, if every write-in vote instead went to Clinton, that doesn't necessarily mean she would have won the election.)
But I also have to point the finger at eligible voters who don't vote. There are certainly people who want to vote but cannot because of personal situations, or because they are intentionally kept from the polls by local politicians; however, that cannot be the case for 100 million eligible voters. And we seriously need election reform in this country. In Oregon, we vote by mail, and I wonder if this is why we have a higher than average turnout.
Interesting stuff to ponder as we try to deal with the Trump New Order.