Archive for the ‘human rights’ category

Democracy’s Message

June 20, 2017

When Donald Trump was elected President, the US democratic process spoke loudly. Americans had elected someone inexperienced, uninformed, and some said unqualified emotionally to become President by a narrow electoral college margin (Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes). What was democracy’s message?

American democracy approximates one man, one vote but it actually reflects the popular vote in each State times the number of House and Senate members apportioned to that State. Therefore it is possible to win the popular vote but lose in the electoral college. So is that why Donald Trump is President?

There’s more. Along with electing Donald Trump, voters returned the Republican Party to majorities in both the House and the Senate. And with these majorities, GOP leaders feel a mandate to roll back much of what constitutes “entitlements” and “excessive regulations”.

Republicans favor less healthcare coverage, less Medicaid spending, and have proposed large changes to Medicaid and even Social Security. On the regulatory front, Republicans are pro-fossil fuels, less regulations on banking and industry, and anti-labor. How can this type of negative, past looking policies appeal to a majority of Americans regardless of which State they reside in?

As usual, there is another way to see life. Republicans claim that best government policy is that which is originated closest to the people (State and local levels). Therefore by definition, healthcare, tax levying, and regulations should be done at the lowest government level which is practical.  Since the governing process is complicated, this simple explanation has appeal. Hmmm.

Traditionally, two key Republican Party segments have been the wealthy and business/banking leadership. Not surprisingly, lower taxes, more fossil fuels, more dependence upon healthcare insurance companies, and anti-labor policies directly benefit these groups. But strangely Republican policies put far more regular people at risk. So, once again, how did American democracy elected a Republican majority and a President of questionable ability?

Hmmm.

  • Could there have been too many litmus issues? Like is a woman’s right to choose, or the protection of individual rights of other Americans regardless of sex, gender preference, or gender identity.  Are these considerations more important than healthcare, a progressive tax code, or reasonable controls (checks and balances) on banking and industry?
  • Could it be that many Americans choose to believe what their elected officials tell them and do not fact check their assertions?
  • Could it be that too many Americans want it all but do not want to do the hard work of paying for what they receive?

Democrats lost the 2016 election mainly because they could not, and would not tell the voter what the voter needed to hear. Democrats equivocated on the big issues and pander on the social issues.

And by the narrowest of majorities, Americans have gotten what democracy delivers, this time an incompetent President who harbors no agenda, a Congress with a shameful agenda currently split along serious fault lines but teetering on choosing the darkest options, presenting the average America with no reasonable outlook for good jobs, more discretionary income, or hopes for a secure future.

Democrats need to wake up. Rather than stand by and watch Republicans promise the moon and deliver dirt, Democrats need to tell voters what is realistic to expect and why Americans can expect a Democrat to deliver.  That was democracy’s message in the 2016 election.

Beginning To Look Back

January 11, 2017

President Obama gave his farewell speech yesterday in Chicago. Pundits suggested President Obama wanted to write his “legacy” before the Trump Administration has a chance to eviscerate it. George W Bush, when asked in the ashes of his failed Presidency, what would his legacy be, replied to the effect, “don’t know. History will determine that and history takes a long time”. Hmmm.

Comparing the two men and their terms in office, President Obama would look hands down the more successful President. But with whom would you rather have a beer?

George W Bush, despite his wealth and familiarity with the moneyed class, seemed such an easy going person and a comfortable person to be around. Barack Obama could also at times display a friendly look but too frequently flashed a message of disdain or intellectual arrogance.

President Obama appeared not to suffer fools well. And in Washington there is no shortage of self centered, free loading, bureaucrats and legislators only too ready to claim something based on half truths or no truths at all.

President Bush was quite correct in saying history takes a long time before it renders a clear verdict. President Obama has much to be proud about but the repeal and replace of Obamacare may obscure his bold (but not bold enough) steps towards universal healthcare coverage. His efforts towards renewable energy and other quality of life issues may confront an unsympathetic Congress and Presidency once Donald Trump is inaugurated. Obama’s 8 year efforts around immigration reform, voting rights support, and inclusion will be an afterthought with the new Administration. What will remain in 8 years is open to question.

On the foreign stage, IMO, President Obama has diagnosed the Middle East (including Israel) correctly. One can argue whether the Arab world should offer the peace branch to Israel or Israel should initiate a sincere proposal first. But until the Arab world settles its power and Islamic sect differences, there is little reason to expect success. The next Administration is likely to take sides, picking which ever group seems most useful short term. Hmmm.

With respect to China and Russia, President Obama rowed against long held State Department views of a proper world order. China and Russia both have a different view, not surprisingly placing their country’s interest ahead of other countries including the US. President Obama diagnosed Asia and in particular China as the country to watch and to update US China foreign policy accordingly.

China is far wealthier and more populated than Russia. Maintaining government control requires meeting the economic needs of its 1+ billion head population.  Unfortunately it will not be easy task for China to continue spreading new wealth to Chinese peasants without 10% growth each year.  Authoritarian countries usually look for outsiders to blame when domestic policies falter.

A fair President Obama criticism might be that in all matters, his preference for “no drama” and “no theater” probably kept him from communicating effectively to the American people in terms they would understand. Whether the issue was healthcare where America spend twice as much as the modern world, and do not provide coverage to all Americans, or where America’s defense budget is 10 times as large as the next biggest spending country, or where America spends more per student on K-12 education than any other country, yet produces test score results in the middle of the pack, President Obama shunned any attempts to bring about change by dramatizing these facts.

President Obama will, however, be remembered from day 1 as a decent man with a smart and gracious wife who lead a White House life, with their children, which was above the fray but not aloof. President Obama’s few emotional occasions dealt with tragedies like the Newtown Elementary School shootings, not whether the Dow Jones Average reached a new high.

Strangely some of President Obama’s most vocal critics come from the African American community. And some of the unkindest words reference little or no progress in jobs and opportunities. Using a football analogy, offensive linemen can out block defensive linemen for just a few seconds creating an opening for a running back. If the back is not ready, or does not run through the opening quickly enough, the running back will be caught for no gain. I wonder why the African American community does not see the chance they had and squandered?

The next Administration will initially be graded in comparison to President Obama’s record. Soon however, Trump Administration policies and unforeseen world events will shape America’s history and the Obama comparisons will cease being relevant. Then historians will have their chance to cast a more informed light on legacy.

Beware Of Hubris

November 30, 2016

Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election “fair and square” as much as we know today. While he did not win the popular vote, Trump won a significant majority in the electoral college. Do these outcomes represent a mandate?

If you couple the Trump victory with Republican control of both Houses of Congress, whether Trump’s victory counts as a mandate or not may seem to Republicans as immaterial. The next two years belong to the GOP and barring upsets in 2018, the Trump team should have its way for 4 years. This reflects American democracy in action.

When George W Bush won the 2000 Presidential election, only with activist help from the Supreme Court, one would have thought a President who lost the popular vote and squeaked by with the electoral college vote would have approached his office with a moderate perspective. Instead, the Bush team felt empowered and tried to impose the views of each of the GOP’s separate factions.

The neocons got an unjust war and one of the greatest foreign policy failures in history, the small government faction got the shameful “hurricane Katrina” response, the deficit hawks blinked over tax cuts and were rewarded with 6 years of unbalanced budgets, and the anti-regulatory advocates got a run away Wall Street which lead to a near global depression.

None of this needs to happen to President Trump. But all these events and more could happen.

The new Trump government’s enemy is as much “hubris” as it might be any particular policy. Team Trump may just think that since they won, anything and everything goes. President Trump needs to keep a short lease on Congress and direct his Cabinet to operate right of center but closer to the center than the Congress.

While Trump has walked back most of his campaign promises, danger lies ahead since nothing has changed about the Republican Party’s composition, ambitions, and dangerous policies.

The Republican Party still favors suppressing voter participation, discrimination under the guise of religious freedom, less regulations which act against the interest of gays, Hispanics, and women’s rights, and don’t forget the flat earth faction which continues to deny global warming.

Oh, and income inequality is not a concern of the Republican Party unless one is talking about how the rich can become richer.

So, President-elect Trump, beware of hubris.

Remember, your margin of victory was actually quite narrow and 2020 is not that far away. Steady economic progress will serve you well while steroid-like induced stimulus could easily put all the increased wealth generation into the already wealthy’s pockets and reward the average American with another deep recession.

The white working class voter liked you this time but they can turn on you just as easily. Run the economy so all boats rise and a second term is there if you want it.

They Still Don’t Get It

June 15, 2016

The GOP leadership along with a dozen or so “at risk” Republican Senators had a very bad week, especially since the shootings in Orlando. While many GOP “big wigs” have squirmed on how to distance themselves from their support of Donald Trump, the majority of Republican leaders have not hinted that the Republican Party has a basic disconnect with the majority of Americans.

So many Republicans are on record supporting, with no exceptions, the NRA “on controls on guns” that avoiding some blame for the 49 Orlando dead takes a linguistic virtuoso. Expressing sympathy much less empathy for the dead gays who were at the Pulse bar last Saturday is even harder. And finding ways to side step Donald Trump’s patently un-American proposal to ban all Muslims from America has exposed many GOP candidates to the hint that they may not be so tough on terrorist, an apparent “no-no” in the Republican ranks.  Voters are seeing this too.

Mitch McConnell’s admonition, “stay on message” apparently wasn’t received by Trump, or at least understood for what it really means. McConnell was attempting to tell Trump, “believe what you will but say only what is written on paper”.

When Trump went off reservation this weekend attacking Hillary Clinton and President Obama for not saying the words “radical Islam”, Trump drew the spotlight away from the economy (read jobs) or any of the pet GOP policies like tax cuts (for the wealthy), religious freedom (legal discrimination against gays and women), and the Supreme Court (appointing conservative nominees).

As time is progressing, voters are beginning to understand the consequences a GOP Presidency will bring, even well beyond the fitness a Donald Trump might be as President.

With over 4 months until the November elections, there is plenty of time for a anti-GOP landslide to form. Not only will Trump be defeated but it is becoming more likely there will be huge GOP Congressional losses too.

Bathrooms Please !

May 22, 2016

The recent North Carolina controversy about who can use which gender designated bathroom reminds me of children’s arguments about which toy they can play with next. It totally baffles me why a modern State like North Carolina would rush HB-2 through and even more baffling why a former mayor of the vibrant commercial city of Charlotte would sign the bill into law.

Politics, in the sense of there is no place too low to go if one wants to win, is the most likely explanation. But why show everyone how pedestrian State politicians might be?

The advocacy groups who support transgender people being able to use which ever bathroom the individual feels most comfortable with has been somewhat as inane as the politicians supporting HB 2. Imagine (this may be an extreme) someone with facial hair (mustache, beard) who truly feels they are on the journey to identifying as a woman walking into a ladies room. Most anyone would react with surprise followed by some degree of uneasiness.

HB-2 also gratuitously opens the door for discrimination against gays by negating any local ordinances which specifically include sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination.

So, why was this necessary?

HB-2 was code named the “bathroom” law. Supporters cited the risk of allowing trans persons from using a bathroom of their choice that sexual predators would use this as cover and also enter women’s bathrooms and molest young children. Hmmm.

First, there is nothing in the law that prevents this from happening and most tellingly, there is no epidemic of predators invading women’s bathrooms now.

Through the fog of nonsense, however, HB-2 answers the concerns and hurt feelings of religious groups who still claim the Bible tells them being gay (and OMG, same sex marriage) is flat out wrong. Politicians who generally wear religion on their sleeve more vividly than in their heart have seen HB-2 as a sure fire vote getter.

The bill doesn’t outrightly call out gays, lesbians, and bi-sexuals for new “anti” measures. HB-2 is much more sophisticated. Since current North Carolina State law provides no specific protections around sexual orientation, HB-2 cleverly says no North Carolina city could enacts its own sexual discrimination laws.

Transgenders are the least understood LGBT group but the idea that a male born, female oriented person could use a lady’s bathroom just could not be imagined by many North Carolinians.

Not so long ago, when the gays rights movement was springing to life, a majority of Americans considered being gay a learned or nurtured condition.  “Love thy neighbor as thy self” didn’t cut it among many religious groups nationally. Being gay was an undesirable condition.

But then something began to happen across American. Americans began to get to know someone who was gay and the condition became real. Suddenly, being gay was viewed as a result of nature, or in other words, being gay was a form of being normal.

While there are still religious groups which denounce homosexuality, most now make fools of themselves by claiming they respect a homosexual as a person but not the life style practices of homosexuals. Hmmm. Never the less,today, more than 50% of Americans support gay rights including same sex marriage.

North Carolina is not going to get this genie back in the bottle. Supreme Court rulings clearly prohibit sexual orientation as a valid basis for discrimination and have also approved same sex marriage as a right of gay couples. So there.

But what about these sexual predators?

Most people do not carry around their birth certificate so it is unreasonable to expect anyone to be able to prove what their sex at birth might have been. Male to female trans persons (assuming no beards) will use a stall in a lady’s room and no one will be the wiser anyways. Female to male trans would be expected to also select a stall when using a men’s room. So where will the provocation be?

Several times in my life time I have been in a restroom and someone from the opposite sex has come in. Usually it is with a young boy who doesn’t know (or want) to enter the room by himself. Other times it is a personal emergency such as a super long line to get in a lady’s room or some mechanical problem making the room unavailable. When nature calls, laws do not mean much.

The LGBT community is arguing HB-2 is about denying respect for transgender people. Maybe, but HB-2 more clearly reflects ignorance and foolishness on the part of State law makers. Transgender use of public bathrooms will in 99.9% of the cases not be recognized by anyone else (person with beard using a lady’s room excepted).

So why is this big deal?

Pandering To “Deeply” Held Religious Views

April 16, 2016

The Constitution’s first amendment guarantees that Government will not restrict expression of religion. But what is included in this presumed freedom? Can mothers prevent their children from being vaccinated to guard against a communicable disease if their brand of religion believes god will safe guard their child? Or, what if ones religion rules out blood transfusions? Could an individual refuse a transfusion? Could that individual refuse a life saving transfusion for his spouse or child? Hmmm.

Many religion are associated with certain wearing apparel. In America, there is fairly wide acceptance or probably better daid, an indifference) to religious dress such as Jewish Kippah, Muslim Hijab, or Amish traditional dress. And underlying this acceptance (or indifference) is that no one else is forced to wear these items.

The operating principle over the years has been religious freedom means that an individual can believe what they want providing their beliefs do not hurt others.

The secular world is another place altogether. Here is where the economy and daily living takes place. One would nowadays never expect to see a door at Walmart which said “Christians Entrance”, or another which said “Blacks Only”. Over the years, secular laws have evolved to provide a commercial world open to all.

The rub arises when religious worlds cross paths with the secular world. Christians normally have religious services on Sunday while Jews hold services Friday evening. In the recent past, there existed a set of laws restricting commercial activity on Sundays. These so-called “blue laws” attempted to discourage most commercial activity on Sundays.

Today there are no laws requiring a commercial establishment to operate on Sunday but more importantantly there are no laws preventing them from being open. Commercial businesses, even those associated with specific religious groups have a choice. No one is required to shop on Sunday and no business is required to be open.

Now a new conflict has arisen testing freedom of religion.

Over the past few years as the Country’s social conscience has evolved to where a majority of Americans accept the LBGT community and recognize same sex marriage.Unfortunately many religious organizations have brought forward objections under the headline, homosexuality, changing gender identity, and same sex marriage violate “deeply held religious views”.

While the law of the land might be that same sex marriage is legal in all 50 States, certain individuals holding “deeply held religious views” believe they possess a right (from the first amendment) to withhold service (during their work) from those who are in some way in violation of their “deeply held religious views”.

There is a cartoon circulating which shows a number of grocery store check-out lanes. In the first lane, the employee tells the customer that due to his “deeply held catholic beliefs” the condoms the customers wishes to purchase must be taken to another lane. In the next lane, a Muslim tells the customer that due to his “deeply held religious beliefs” he can not ring up the bacon and that the customer must take the product to another lane. Sound ridiculous?

Consider then the recent move by some Republican majority States to pass laws nibble away at rulings by the Supreme Court.  These individual instances are not isolated but reflect a broader effort by evangelical and fundamentalist religious groups to have it both ways. They want freedom of religion and they want the right to take certain freedoms from others. Hmmm.

These religious groups want the right to deny service to others whose life style they deem an offense to their “deeply held religious beliefs”. As private organizations, one might understand rules excluding others who can not meet religious tests but when members of these religious organizations are working in the public sector, this seems way over the line. What ever happened to “love thy neighbor as thy self”?

As disappointing as these religious groups behavior, even more disappointing, yet not that surprising, are the political leaders who are pandering to these evangelicals and fundamentalists.

So it should be no surprise that States like Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama have all proposed or implemented State laws which in some way attempt to “guarantee” religious freedom and protect individuals who discriminate from civil suits…  anyone, that is, who withholds services due to “deeply held religious views”.

For these religious groups, it takes very small people to think and act in a mean and discriminatory way.

For these political officials, the bar is even lower. Politicians only seek enough votes to remain in power while feeding off the public trough.  Votes are just votes.  Et tu Ted Cruz.

Look Who’s Next In Line

March 9, 2016

The Republican Party is in a pickle. Almost 2/3rds of polled Republicans want someone other than Donald Trump to represent the party in November. Last night Trump won in Michigan and Mississippi. What a shock. But wait, even more of a shock is to look at who is  in second place.  It’s Ted Cruz, who is even less acceptable. Hmmm.

To be sure, this corundum belongs to the Republican Party and it is theirs to sort out. The GOP can run whomever they wish.

Never the less it is telling to study who the GOP is testing in its primaries.

Considering the Cruz candidacy a little further may help one understand why pundits are predicting a splintering of the Republican Party when the GOP finishes its convention this summer. Cruz represents the far right of the conservative section of the Republican Party. Cruz champions the view that Government is too big and must be pared back at all cost. Is that the most important issue in voters’ minds?

In Monday, March 7, 2016’s Wall Street Journal, Cruz wrote an opinion column under the title “The Scalia Seat: Let the People Speak”. In this column, one can read all that is necessary to learn how an “originalist” can conveniently twist his logic so that he can justify behavior which is directly opposite the Founding Fathers’ intentions.

Cruz writes that the Constitution has a fixed meaning (his belief). Supreme Court opinions which reflect Constitutional interpretations removed from the horse and buggy, pre-electricity days when the Constitution was written, is inappropriate Cruz claims. Cruz predicts that an Obama appointment would usher in late term abortions, mandating religious organizations (and private business operated by religious owners) accept gays and same sex marriages and treat their employees the same as any other private employer in like businesses, and, not to be overlooked, unilaterally take guns from lawful owners. (Have you heard this list before?)

In a most astounding leap of logic, Cruz then concludes that these issues are so important that unlike what is written in the Constitution and over 200 years of experience flowing from the Country’s founding, that President Obama is not entitled to “advice and consent” procedures (as spelled out in the Constitution) when the President exercise his clearly authorized duty to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia. Hmmm.

Donald Trump has thrived on hateful, discriminatory, and xenophobic campaign rhetoric. Cruz is pushing a Constitutional interpretation which would enable hateful, discriminatory and xenophobic legal interpretations under the egis of a Court majority composed of “Antonin Scalia-like” Justices.

What has the GOP got itself into?