Politics Is Not Sports And Needs No Cheerleaders, On The Left Or The Right

Two opinion pieces came to my attention this morning.  One criticizes political entertainment culture on the right. The other criticizes the left.  No matter where you sit in the political landscape, they are worth a look.

I have long thought that many voters in the US have strange and unhealthy approach to politics.  I have met many folks, on the left and the right, who have a “support your team at all costs” mentality that resembles the affection sports fans have for their team.

The problem with this is that it enables folks at all levels of the political landscape to become blind to inconsistencies and flaws in the candidates and office holders.  The flaws may be regarding policy, corruption, moral issues, etc.  Overlooking flaws and inconsistencies in people on one’s team while excoriating those on the other is ultimately  hypocritical and makes cooperation and finding a workable middle ground very difficult.

We should not be looking at politicians as all star athletes who command undying loyalty.  Passion has little purpose in politics, imo.  Candidates should be evaluated on their positions and their ability to explain them.

Similarly, one should not go looking for news about politics (or any other matter) simply to provide oneself with emotional validation, yet people constantly do this, on the left and the right.

 

Here is an article by a conservative commentator that does a good job of identifying the problem on the right, in frank terms.

 

Here is one that says similar things, and rightly so, about some of the rock star lefty tv folks.

 

Pay attention to the real issues.  Find sober, non hysterical news sources from a variety of perspectives.  Stop supporting a team.

Many Media Outlets Are Focusing On The Wrong Trump Stories

In the past week or so, there have been a flurry of media stories and opinion pieces about the President, too many of which are focused on what I think are lesser concerns or which take the wrong tone on certain matters.

I’m not talking so much about the military strikes.  They are clearly newsworthy, though much of the coverage is not nearly critical enough when the President’s possible motives are taken into account, not to mention what the effects of the strikes are, whether short or long term.  The big problem is that the coverage seems to be trying to find something rational or well considered in the President’s behavior, when there is nothing at the core.

This desperate search for normalization also appears in the many news stories and opinion pieces about what may or may not be shake ups in the White House, specifically those concerning Steve Bannon.  Nearly every major media outlet covering this has attempted to somehow portray this as a move toward the center or some type of traditional conservatism as opposed to Bannon style white nationalism.  Jared Kushner is, laughingly, portrayed in these stories as some kind of New York Liberal.  Kushner may be chafing now, but he has worked with known racists like Bannon and Steven Miller throughout the campaign and in the administration all along.

Even if Bannon is forced out or quits, does Miller go too?  What about Seb Gorka,  an advisor whose credentials are called into question by many serious analysts.

Even if every Breitbart aligned nationalist were to leave the White House staff, it would still leave the deranged elephant in the room, Trump himself.  Much of the coverage of the White House staff problems takes the position that fixing the staff will somehow allow Trump to become more normal and function like a real President.  There are two problems with this.  First, it absolves the President of responsibility for his actions and, secondly, it ignores the fact that he himself is the problem.

The reason the Trump White House is a toxic, dysfunctional environment is because Trump himself is toxic and dysfunctional.  He is in over his head.  He doesn’t appear to care about the job.  All he seems to care about is applause.  The linked opinion piece says it better than I ever could (it’s written by a Republican, btw).

I realize “the media” is a vast variety of print, web, tv and radio outlets, but I have heard and read far too much about palace intrigue and Trump normalization than I would like.  It seems to me that coverage of some of the most dangerous and harmful aspects of the Trump administration has been downplayed.

What am I talking about?

For one, I believe Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, is probably second only to the President himself in terms of harmfulness to the values and principles we should hold dear.  His re-declaration of the war on drugs is a thinly veiled attempt at voter suppression and an attack on state’s rights.  He also wants to end consent decrees between the DOJ and various cities police departments, even when the cities themselves welcome these agreements and their positive effects on policing.  His position on several other matters is also questionable.

The administration’s immigration policy seems to have fallen off the media radar in a big way.  The public should be very concerned about phone and computer searches at airports as well as ICE raids that may be denying due process to those who are targeted.

A harsh and violent deportation policy is no substitute for coherent immigration reform, which is likely something both parties in Congress could actually come to agreement on.  While Trump campaigned heavily on an anti-immigrant position, plenty of GOP in congress realize that their state’s economies can not entirely function without immigrants.

There is mounting evidence that current policies are already hurting the economy, especially in tourism.

What else should be front and center in the news?  How about the fact that Education Secretary and Amway heiress Betsy DeVos has removed regulations that protected student loan borrowers.

I could go on about the harmful things the administration is doing for many pages.  I haven’t even mentioned the EPA , women’s reproductive health or the fact that the President came into office with no solid health care plan, despite campaigning heavily on it.  Then there is the matter of Russian interference in the election, a vast topic in and of itself.

I urge everyone to side step the sometimes distracting headline stories and dig into the serious stuff.

The World Turns Upside Down As Allegedly Liberal Media Outlets Go Soft On Trump In Wake Of Syria Action

In the wake of the recent attack by the US on a (mostly empty) air base in Syria, the reaction from media outlets considered to be mainstream and/or liberal has been baffling.  Pundits at CNN and The New York Times, who have been at the receiving end of  the 45th President’s hateful tweets for not being supportive of him, have suddenly decided he is presidential and that the strike was a good idea.  Never mind that the air base was likely emptied out beforehand and that the 180 degree change in Trump policy over a day or so shows a dangerous impulsiveness, if anything.

Also, Trump’s citing of the atrocities caused by the sarin gas attacks as a heart-changer are bullshit crocodile tears.  He has no tears for civilian deaths in US led air strikes in Yemen and Iraq under his watch.

To be fair, I have read a few critical pieces at mainstream center or center-left media.  The Washington Post comes to mind.

As a person who leans left/progressive, but tries to stay informed of all points of view to avoid the bubble problem, it is a little shocking that one prominent conservative site is far more critical of the Syria action than much of the allegedly liberal media.

examples, all from The American Conservative, a site whose views I almost never align with…

 

Trump The Phony

Trump’s Illegal Attack

Syria: What We Know

Trump’s Syria Attack And Our Abject Media

Trump’s First Big Foreign Policy Failure

A Non-Obama Foreign Policy…

This Isn’t The Foreign Policy Trump Campaigned On

Bombing Syria Doesn’t Provide Humanitarian Relief

The Carterization Of Trump

 

….and that’s not even all of them.

 

I can not fathom why traditionally liberal sources are not bristling with the same kind of anti-Trump editorial fire at this point.

Walk And Chew Gum

Much attention has been given in the media to issues concerning the Republican president and his administration’s involvement with Russia, and rightly so.  Coming on the heels of an address to congress laughably considered “presidential,” revelations about AG Jeff Sessions and the Presisdent’s tweets accusing the prior administration of illegal wiretapping have stayed at the top of the news.

While I think it is likely there is fire behind all the Russian smoke swirling around the  White House, there is little I, or any other regular citizens can do about it.  I do  tell my folks in congress that I am concerned when I call them, and keeping the pressure up helps, but ultimately it will be up to Congress to investigate.  The media will also continue to dig on this.  If there is something there, I think it will come out.

In the meantime, there is much going on that warrants our attention.  This article is not meant to be exhaustive, but just an example that there is more going on than the Russia problem.

Some things you may want to  call your congress-folks about:

 

The administration is considering cuts to Coast Guard and airport security budgets to fund the proposed Mexican border wall.  The border wall has only ever been an attempt to appeal to racist elements of the GOP base and has nothing to do with security.  If you need proof, this would seem to be it.  source

Here is a House Resolution that proposes eliminating the EPA:  HR861

If you look at that house bill, it’s worth drilling up and seeing the whole list of bills that are proposed.  A lot of it is innocuous, but there is plenty of bad stuff hidden in there.

 

Don’t ignore what is happenig in your state, either.

 

Here is an article about state bills that may penalize electric car owners.

Here is an article about states attempting to outlaw peaceful protest.

 

So, once again, while there may be something to the Russia allegations, it may all take a while to shake out.   Even if there is cause for impeachment, and it happens, that still leaves us with a GOP led congress.  Pay attention to everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Republican Administration’s Shift On Cannabis Is A Gift To Private Prisons, And Worse.

If you have been following the news of late, you may have noticed that the Republican administration has hinted that federal law enforcement officials may no longer defer to the states on marijuana use.  source  While some states in the US have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, possession and distribution remains a federal crime.

A natural initial reaction to this is to cry foul over the hypocrisy regarding the administrations position on state’s rights.  After all, state’s rights were cited as an explanation of the executive order rescinding bathroom rules applying to transgender students.  In reality, I am pretty sure that state’s rights were not a consideration in either case.

The executive order on transgender bathroom use was a debt owed to the social conservatives and Mike Pence.

The potential change to marijuana policy scratches a couple of other itches, mostly having to do with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions has long been critical of marijuana use, having gone so far as to say “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”  source  In my opinion, however, Sessions personal view is not even the real reason for the potential change in policy.

The current administration has also rescinded the Obama era executive order aimed at reducing the federal government’s involvement with private prison contractors.  source  The president has been friendly with the private prison industry and even before the recent executive order, the industry has seen rising stock values, post election.  source  Deciding to prosecute cannabis users more aggressively will immediately create more criminals out of whole cloth, likely benefiting private prison contractors.

Perhaps even more sinister, especially considering Sessions’ history with voting rights(source), is the fact that enforcement of marijuana laws is a path to voter suppression.   While felony possession amounts vary by state, repeat offenders for possession can be charged with a felony under federal law, resulting in disenfranchisement.

If you want to do a little more reading on your own, I suggest looking at what states have legalized marijuana and which candidate they voted for in the last election.

The Dark, Republican America Is Not The Real America

There has been a lot of talk of late about an essay by Michael Anton called The Flight 93 Election.

A recent article at The Intercept makes the case that the essay is essentially the basis for Trumpism.

The essay is dark and, one can argue, racist.  It attacks the Black Lives Matter movement and raises the spectre of immigration.

One part of the Intercept’s article that struck me echoed something I was thinking a few days ago.

I quote:   “In his inaugural address, Trump used the phrase “American carnage” to describe the way things are now. Trump was wrong about the state of our nation, which is not a wasteland from coast to coast. But if Anton’s deadly Flight 93 vision comes true, carnage may well describe our future.”source

There are indeed serious problems in the US and there always have been.  Many live in poverty, both in cities and rural areas.  Many suffer from opioid addiction.  Health care is expensive and the ACA isn’t perfect.  I could go on, but the issue here is not the problems themselves, but the response.

Almost none of the reasons cited by the current Republican administration for the nation’s woes are true.  They say crime is on the rise because of the actions of illegal immigrants when statistics show that crime is much lower now than in many decades past and that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born here.source

They try to turn poor and middle class whites against African-Americans when, ultimately, they should share a common cause.

They enact policies on immigration that could have disastrous effects on the economy.   There are tons of doctors in the US who were not born here, in many cases serving areas that are in need.  source

There are also many scientists in the US from countries affected by the recent travel ban.source

The American agriculture industry also depends heavily on the work of immigrants.   There could be significant disruption of the farm industry if the current administration has it’s way.source

If Trump voters or the administration think that these jobs should strictly be done by people born here, a lot of changes would have to occur.   As for the science and medical jobs, we would need a better path to college for all citizens without the risk of crippling student loan debt.

If Americans are going to do all the seasonal farm work, food prices will have to rise dramatically.

At any rate, none of the “good jobs” (basically shorthand for factory/manufacturing work) promised by the Republican administration to it’s base are affected in any way by the people the administration seeks to demonize.

The base’s support of the administration will, sadly, get them nothing.  It won’t get them health care and it won’t get them jobs.  It won’t stop automation from marching on beyond where it is now, taking even more blue collar jobs.

Much of this article is an aside from my original thought.

I was out and about in my neighborhood this weekend.  I live in a working/middle class neighborhood that is mostly white, but has significant Mexican, Middle Eastern and African American populations.

I couldn’t help but think as I walked along the main business street that the country I see is not the one that the Republican administration sees.  The Mexican grocery store on this street had previously been a vacant storefront.  Now, it is a lynchpin of the neighborhood.  The Middle Eastern grocery nearby has been here for decades.  They are mixed in with traditional bakeries, bars, barbershops and a host of other small businesses.  It is a safe neighborhood and I am glad to live here.  I do not feel fear walking down the street.  The only crime I have experienced is when the white guy next door got in a fight with his girlfriend and holed himself up (purportedly with a gun), prompting the SWAT team to get involved.

My job takes me to many rural areas of the state where I live.  Almost all of these rural areas now have Mexican restaurants.

Does anyone really think that my neighborhood or these small towns would be better off without these businesses?

The Republican administration is lying to you.  Use your own eyes, ears and brain.

I strongly urge you to watch this US made 1947 short film on the subject of falling for fascism. It’s just as relevant now.

M

What You Can Personally Do About The Environment When Lunatics Run The Asylum

It is no secret that Republicans, both in the White House and in Congress, frequently take positions on climate change and pollution that fly in the face of widely accepted science.  This is especially baffling for those who are from states with a coastline whose cities could someday be direly affected.  See Marco Rubio, for example.

Right now, and for the foreseeable future, we find ourselves in a henhouse guarded by foxes.  What is to be done?

All of the things that harm the environment and drive climate change are the result of behaviors by the population of the world at large, especially those in developed countries.

If people are serious about stopping climate change, there are many behaviors that can be modified to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.  The more people who do these things, the better off we all are.  Some searching on the internet reveals  a host of articles on what individuals can do.

Think about your water use and try to cut down, especially when brushing teeth or shaving.

Think hard about where you set your thermostat, especially when not at home.

Change the furnace filter regularly.

Don’t drink bottled water, or soda for that matter.  Use a refillable water bottle.

Do not buy  coffee machines that use those stupid little sealed plastic cups.

Don’t eat meat, or cut WAAAYYY back on your meat consumption.   A huge amount of resources goes into and a lot of greenhouse gas emissions results from the production of meat as food.  If you must have meat multiple times a day or week, consider hunting.

If you live where you can walk or ride a bike for errands, do it. Also, plan your shopping so you don’t have to do as much running around.  Just think about the inefficiency of moving the entire weight of a car along with yourself to buy one or two things.

Don’t buy so much disposable junk.  Use what you buy until it wears out.

These are just off the top of my head.  You can find more ideas in minutes by searching the internet.

 

The Case For Non Violent Protest

Despite the chaos and uncertainty of the last couple of weeks, there have been moments of  brightness and inspiration.  The women’s marches, the airport protest and the Yemeni bodega strike have shown that people can protest massively and peacefully.

There have been a few instances where a few wrongheaded protesters violently shoot the cause in the foot and play right into the hands of those who may want to crush them.

I am talking, of course, about protests that turned violent at UC Berkeley and also in DC on the day of the inauguration.

While some may take vicarious pleasure in these actions, they have done nothing to further the cause of freedom or justice and have perhaps only emboldened the enemies of these things.  I can’t think of a single redeeming thing to say about the person who was set to speak at UC Berkeley, and I don’t have a problem with anyone peacefully protesting his appearance, but the violence that erupted only gives him and his allies ammunition.

I will conclude with a couple of links that make the same point and  a picture.

Keep a cool head, no matter what.

 

Civil Resistance and the 3.5% Rule

Milo Yiannopoulos Feeds on Your Violent Protests. So Does Donald Trump.

Berkeley protesters just fell into the most obvious trap imaginable. Again

 

no break.jpg

Anti-Milo UC Berkeley Protests

Last night a peaceful protest turned violent at UC Berkely.source

 

I have two thoughts on this and the fallout from it.

One,  there was no need for the protests to turn violent and the fact that they did so is ultimately counter productive.  I think it is quite possible that peaceful protests would get the message to the university.   The violence gives the other side more ammunition in their hateful crusade.  Also, there has been an article circulating of late (though written in 2013) that makes the case that non violent protest is actually more effective in forcing change.source

 

My second thought is to look at what Trump said about the whole thing and point out his errors, which should be pointed out to everyone.  He made threats to UC Berkeley almost as if they were responsible for the violence.  It was actually their property that was harmed by the bad acting protestors who broke with the peaceful ones.  In the article that was the source for my first paragraph, Trump says that Berkeley “practices violence on innocent people” when, once again, it was Berkeley whose property was damaged.

 

To sum up, similar to how someone phrased it on FB:

 

UCB allows MY to come speak=protected free speech

peaceful protest=protected free speech

violent protest=not protected free speech

what Trump said=free speech, but muddled as hell and making no sense, seems to indicate he doesn’t actually understand what happened