Monthly Archives: March 2019

Understanding Trump

If you are a logical person or a reasonable person Mr Trump may be hard to understand. His decisions, the way he treats people, his lies, his tweets may all seem the rantings of a loon.

After 3 years of campaigning and watching him on the stage I have come to some understanding of why he makes the kinds of decisions he makes. While on the surface they make no sense, if you can put yourself in his mind (and there is plenty of room) you may be able to make sense of him.

I was trained as an anthropologist, which is important. What an anthropologist tries to do is understand people who think in ways that are quite different from what we might consider “normal” in our society.

For example, the Yanomami (or Yanamamo) have a ritual they perform when someone dies. They cremate the body and mix the ashes of the deceased into a “stew”. The family then passes around the stew and everyone takes a drink. On the surface this is pretty disgusting and makes no sense.

However, to the Yanomami this action shows the highest regard for the dead. The dead become part of the living.The dead person becomes one with those who are still alive. It is the ultimate spiritual and physical connection. Odd behavior to us, but completely “normal” under their belief system.

So, when we look at Trump’s decisions we should not assume he holds the same values, beliefs, life experiences, etc. as a normal American. We should instead, an an anthropologist, try to understand his motives and beliefs by his actions. We should assume nothing, but rather look for a pattern of behavior to better understand the motives of that behavior.

For example, Trump is obsessed with destroying the ACA, also called Obamacare. Now, this program provides health insurance to millions of Americans. When the GOP tried to destroy it the outrage was so great that they could not do so. People like it. It guarantees health insurance for the working poor and supports the private insurance industry. Yet, Mr Trump insists he wants it ended, with no plan to help the 20-40,000,000 Americans who would lose insurance if he succeeds.

A logical person might ask: Why? Why try to destroy a popular program that is working? Now, if a better alternative was offered there might be a reasonable discussion. But there is no alternative offered, just the end of Obamacare.

Combine this with his other illogical actions concerning the border wall. His call for an investigation of Smollett, the black guy in Chicago, his history of discrimination against African-Americans in housing, etc. and a clear picture emerges.

He is a racist. Anything Obama did, no matter how helpful to the citizens, he is intent on undoing. While he criticizes black Americans and calls for all kinds of “investigations”, he never criticizes white supremacists or calls for investigations of police who kill blacks.

If you look at Mr Trump’s decisions and take the view that he is a racist, they all make perfect sense. His attacks on the people of Puerto Rico , Mexicans, ripping brown children from their parents, saying he wants more folks from Norway, etc. The overall , inevitable controlling factor, from the point of view of an anthropologist, is that this man makes policy decisions based on skin color.

Another area where Mr Trump’s decisions seem incomprehensible is his relationships with various foreign leaders. While he “loves” Kim Jung Un and respects Putin, he criticizes the leaders of democracies.

Why would an American president humiliate himself before Putin. Why kowtow to the dictator of Saudi Arabia? Why talk about his love relationship with Kim Jung Un? All three of these men are vile dictators who murder their political opponents. They kill newsmen. They destroy all critics. All three have raided the wealth of their own people and live like kings while so many in their countries have nothing.

What is the underlying attraction these men have as far as Trump is concerned? What is it about his value system that makes them attractive to him?

The conclusion I have reached is not that they “have anything on him”, like “compromat”. Rather, he admires brutality and physical strength. He sees the way these men “control” their populations with terror and he admires that. He sees that as a positive value. Leaders who are feared and bowed down to. Above questioning.

Why has he gone through so many cabinet members and advisers? He needs “yes men” around him. People who will tell him he is the greatest thing on Earth. Sycophants. Anyone who would disagree with him is put in his place or fired. No opinions other than that the the supreme leader can be allowed.

So, any decisions he makes must be unquestioned. He values complete loyalty to him and a disregard for any legal or normative structures. He losses the battle for the wall, so he simply says he will violate the law and build it anyway. If his political opponents disagree they should be destroyed. The free press must be destroyed, as well. There can be no exchange of ideas, only capitulation. In his world view that is the way a “great leader” acts.

Now, I am not justifying Mr Trump’s actions. Only trying to make sense of them. He does have guiding principles, even though he is probably not even cognizant of them himself.

He believes in strong man rule and the inherent superiority of light skinned people. If you keep in mind those 2 principles all of his actions, tweets, speeches, violations of the law and norms make sense.

It also helps one understand that so many Americans share that world view. After all, Mr Trump has plenty of support. You will never understand Mr Trump unless you understand that fact as well. He is not alone in his core beliefs. Admiration for authoritarian rule and racism. A lethal combination.

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Filed under ACA, african-american, blacks, Immigration, liberals, logic, obama, Obamacare, Politics, POTUS, president, racism, Society, Trump, United States

Stupid or Ignorant?

Remember the t-shirts that were popular for awhile? They had printed on the front the words “I’m With Stupid” and had an arrow pointing to the person next to you. Funny shirt.

There is a difference between being “stupid” and being “ignorant”.

To be stupid, according to Merriam-Webster:

aslow of mind 
bgiven to unintelligent decisions or acts acting in an unintelligent or careless manner
clacking intelligence or reason 

Now, to be ignorant is something

a: destitute of knowledge or education
also:lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified
bresulting from or showing lack of knowledge or intelligence
 
An important distinction.
 
 
Stupid is probably something you cannot control. I have had a few students who were
truly stupid. Yes, I know teachers aren’t supposed to say that, but it is true. Anyone who has ever sat in a classroom as student or teacher knows what I am talking about. The kid just doesn’t get it.
 
So, someone who is stupid is “slow of mind”. Not mentally retarded, just a bit slow. Clueless. Doesn’t get it. You tell them a joke with any degree of sophistication and it goes over their head. When they read the “Onion ” they think they are reading the “New York Times”.
 
 
Ignorant is something else, however. Everyone is ignorant. All of us. Even me. (Hard to believe).
 
 
Being ignorant simply means you don’t have knowledge in a certain area.  It means you have little “knowledge” and lack understanding in some area.
 
 
I used to have this little argument with my seniors in government class. Some students insisted (as does Kelly Ann Conway) that every opinion is just as valid as any other opinion. In other words, all opinions are equal. The denial of expertise. So, alternate facts are just as valid as real facts. And there are a number of people who hold to this flawed concept.
 
 
My response to the kids was simply this. If you are pains in your abdomen, whose opinion are you going to consider? I , as a person with no training as a doctor tell you not to worry, those are just pains that only exist in your imagination. Do you accept my opinion? Or, do you seek the opinion of a doctor? Are those opinions equal in value?
 
 
Let me give another example. Ben Carson. Ben Carson is an excellent surgeon. If you wanted surgery, he is the guy whose opinion you would want. Intelligent. But, Ben Carson is also ignorant. Ben Carson claimed that the Great Pyramid of Gaza was used as a grain storage facility for the ancient Egyptians. He claimed that a solid stone monolith was a for grain storage.
 
 
How can a man who is intelligent is one area be so utterly ignorant in another? Well, my guess is that he read something to that effect and just believed it. So, he had one source of information and did not bother to read other sources, from experts in Egyptology. Ignorant, but not necessarily stupid.
 
 
Now, if Ben Carson wanted to stop being ignorant about the Great Pyramid his problem could be easily solved. He could consult a basic textbook on Egypt, written by someone who actually was an expert. If he did so, and he wasn’t stupid, he would change his opinion about the function of the Great Pyramid. Of course, in order to do so he would have to be open to his own ignorance on that particular topic.
 
 
When we think of those with different views from us we need to consider the differences between ignorant and stupid. Not that many people are stupid. After all, as a species being stupid is not an evolutionary advantage. No amount of information can help a person who is truly stupid.
 
 
An ignorant person, on the other hand, can become less ignorant. Anyone with a normal degree of intelligence can learn about the pyramids. Provided they rely on sources of knowledge form experts. From people who have opinions based on study and evidence.
 
 
Therein lies the problem. When ignorant people CHOOSE to stay ignorant.
 
 
I recall a student I had a numbers of years ago who failed his tests regularly. He blamed me. Why? Because I didn’t teach him anything. I couldn’t dispute that. After all, his test failure spoke for itself. Of course, I never taught any student anything. I simply provided the opportunity for them to learn. they had to be open to learning.
 
 
We all have a choice. Stay ignorant or open up to evidence and information Choose to tune out evidence that interferes with our preconceived notions or accept evidence and digest it. And lessen our ignorance.
 
 
Perhaps we need a new t-shirt. When we stand next to  those of us who refuse to seek facts and data and evidence that challenge our world view. A t-shirt that says: I’m With Ignorant.
 
 
 
 
 

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Paul, Here’s the Good News

Mr Manafort. A call from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

Hi Paul. How are you doing today?  Got some real good news for you.  Looking good. Oh, still in the wheelchair? Sad. Very sad.

I can’t figure out why they put you in the slammer. 10 years of bilking the taxpayers? Big deal. Hiding millions in income to avoid paying your fair share of taxes? Come on, who doesn’t do that? I have been bilking the suckers for 40 years.

I feel bad for you. After all, if you had never worked on my campaign you might have never been caught. Seems to happen to a lot of folks who worked for me. A lot of my buddies seem to be in legal trouble. Wonder why? Just doing what I asked them to do. Was that wrong? Go figure.

So, one judge gave you only 3 and a half years. Not bad, big fella. Not bad. And this other judge only gave you 3 and a half more. Not a bad deal.

I mean, who wouldn’t trade a lifetime of cheating people and living  like a millionaire for a few years in the pokey at a country club prison? It’s not like you sold a couple ounces of marijuana. Now that will get you put away for a long time. You only cheated your fellow citizens.

Guess what , Paul. I have more real good news for you. Circle this date on your calendar. November 15, 2020.  And hang in there. You see, by then the election will be over. I will be free to start handing out pardons. And you kept your mouth shut. Just keep clammed up. Like a good soldier. Not a “rat” like Cohen.

On November 16, 2020 you will hop out (I presume you won’t need that wheelchair any longer) of the pen and into freedom. A full pardon, pardner.

Now, isn’t that good news?

Wait a minute. Hold on. Oh…. Well…. Uh. ….Golly gee.

Just saw a report on Fox and Fiends that you have been indicted for state crimes in New York. No problem. I will pardon those…what ? oh? Jared just told me I can’t pardon state crimes. BUMMER!  Wait a sec…uh, really? Can’t even pardon myself for state crimes? That don’t seem fair.

What good is being the top boss if you can’t pardon yourself? No collusion. No collusion.

Hey, Paul, you don’t think that the NY attorneys will go after my little business in the city, do you? Like my real estate deals? My Russia money connections? My “creative accounting” on my taxes.  That would be bad news.

Sorry, Paul, looks like a pardon won’t do the trick for you. Or me. Unless…. Jared has an idea.

We can get Donald Junior to run for governor of New York. If he wins, which he will since he is a Trump. Then he can pardon all of us. I better start working on that right now. No time to lose.

Gotta go, Paul. At least you look good in orange.

Hey, Jared, get me Vlad on the line . What time is it in Moscow, anyway?

 

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Lies Liberals Tell, Part 7

Lie#7: It Can’t Happen Here

Copyright 2017,2018,2019 Joseph Urban

I am not much for conspiracy theories. Most have no basis in evidence. So as a liberal I have always told myself that fascism cannot happen here. We have a long history of the rule of law and democratic traditions. There is no way the US could fall into a dictatorship. I firmly believed that.

Until now.

Students of history tell us that democracies have fallen in the past. Taken over by “strong men”. Men who demanded allegiance to themselves above allegiance to the law. Who demand loyalty oaths. Who tell the “Big Lie”. Rome , in ancient times, lost the Republic to a dictatorship.  It was not that long ago that the democracies of Germany and Italy fell to demagogues. Under Gorbachev, Russia was on its way to becoming a democracy, then Putin and the oligarchs took over. We are not immune.

What has been the great strength of the US has been the separation of powers. Checks and balances. The executive, legislative and judicial branches each checking the power of the others. The delicate balance of power.

So, when Richard Nixon violated the law the Supreme Court and Congress stepped in and said “No”. You cannot do that. You will not do that. We are loyal to the Constitution and the nation, not to you personally. We do not confuse the Presidency with the person currently holding that role. So Nixon was forced to resign or be impeached.

We have fewer checks and balances today. The Republican Party has , over the last 40 years, slowly morphed into a cult. It is now lead by Mr Trump. It is a personality cult whose loyalty is to him personally, not to the rule of law.  The Republican Congress sits by while Mr Trump obstructs an investigation into his financial dealings and connections with Russia.

Mr Trump acts like a mobster. Mr Trump attacks citizens who are Muslims. Mr Trump attacks the FBI. Mr Trump attacks the Department of Justice. Mr Trump makes wild and unsubstantiated claims on a daily basis. He attacks the free press. He attacks individual members of Congress . And the Republicans in Congress acquiesce. Worse than that, the leadership of the GOP colludes and enables this man.

There is only a check and balance system if the legislative branch decides to honor and follow the law. This Republican Congress refused to do so. They had become lapdogs content in the lap of the “Great leader”. Now that the Democrats control the House we are finally seeing some accountability. But only some.

The Republican Senate has decided that supporting this person who is undermining the basic institutions of democracy is the thing to do. The man is above the law.

Mr Trump knows he will not face any consequences from this Senate. He can fire the special prosecutor and this Senate will do nothing. Or worse. They will follow and encourage him. He has signed their tax bill for the wealthy. He has given them 2 Supreme Court members who will, in the future, support corporate interests over individual rights. They will now return the favor.

The president wanted a wall between the US and Mexico. When the Congress refused to fund that wall, he simply said he would ignore Congress and do it anyway. The Republican majority leader in the Senate has supported the president. He has said, in effect, that the president does not have any check on him from Congress.

Any student of history that understands the rise of Mussolini, Hitler or Putin can see what happens when power gets concentrated in the hands of the executive branch. With no checks . Germany was a democracy in 1932. By 1936 it was a dictatorship. One man did not “take over”. He had plenty of help when he attacked the press (lugenpresse) and the elected assembly.

So, it can happen here. Don’t doubt it.

Conclusion

Liberals need to stop lying to themselves about the far right that has taken over the Republican Party.  They do not hold to the same core beliefs as the founding fathers.

Liberals have been far too passive in dealing with the right wing in this country. We have been victims of our own belief in the American values and basic honesty and decency. Liberals understand that the conservatives, especially since 1980, simply do not believe in the US Constitution. They do not believe in the Bill of Rights. They do not believe in democracy.  Liberals must understand that and act accordingly.

The Republican party has ceased being the party of small business and fiscal responsibility. It has become a tool of corporations and a radical right wing. Worse, it has morphed into a personality cult devoted to the “fearless leader”.  Dangerous. Only the utter destruction of that party will open the door for real change.

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Lies Liberal Tell, Part 6

Lies Liberals Tell, Part 6

Copyright Joseph Urban 2017,2018,2019

Lie # 6. Inevitability of Progress.

One of the lies liberals tell themselves is that we always move forward toward a better, more tolerant society. Two steps forward, one step backward. But always moving forward in the end.

Yet, the facts speak otherwise. For example, average worker incomes, adjusted for inflation, have  barely budged since the 1960s. And for lower wage workers the increases have sometimes not kept pace with inflation. In the 1970s tuition costs were approximately 7% of the median male income. By 2015 the tuition costs were 25% of the median male income.

What does this mean? A higher education is the path for the working poor to a better life. Always has been. That is how we train teachers, scientists, engineers, etc. As tuition rises, relative to income, it does two things. First, it prevents many children of the working poor to achieve a higher  education and therefore better paying careers. Second, for those who do borrow (the only way to finance the education) they start their adult life burdened with massive debt. The opposite of progress.

Take the healthcare system. Since the time of FDR we have known we need some permanent health care solution for everyone. FDR could not get it done, though he tried. Along came Medicare and Medicaid. Slow progress that guaranteed the poorest of the poor and the elderly would have access to basic care. But not the younger working poor. They were left out. Until the ACA. Which is now under attack and being cut slowly but surely. The opposite of progress.

We can look at the end of the EPA, the Department of Education, the National Parks, the Consumer Protection Agency. All being gutted . All under the control of people who want to turn back the clock on basic human progress.  Major steps backward.

We see the same thing with the unrelenting attacks on women’s basic health services. The Supreme Court rules that a company (Hobby Lobby) can deny basic coverage to their employees if that coverage somehow does not fit the beliefs of the owners of the company. The mentality that the business owner owns not only your labor, but your health care. The Supreme Court majority, which calls itself “strict constructionists” finds in the Constitution the right of a corporation to have “religious beliefs”. And to impose those beliefs on its workers. Of course, there is not a single mention of the term “corporation” in the Constitution.  The Bill of Rights, envisioned to protect individual citizens from the government, is turned on its head and used to deprive citizens of rights.

We see that new voter suppression techniques are being used to deny some people the franchise. In 2019 the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives proposed their first bill, HR 1. That bill would guarantee people the right to vote and provide resources for  that purpose. The conservative in charge of the Senate refused to bring it to a vote . He called it a “power grab” by the Democrats. The American people voting, according to the far right, is a liberal “power grab”. Progress is a power grab. Democracy is a “power grab”.

Liberals need to learn that progress is not automatic or inevitable. The reactionary forces are strong and currently hold power. And they are stripping the safeguards that took so long to develop. In the end, they want to privatize and deregulate everything.

Progress is not inevitable. 

 

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Lie Liberals Tell, Part 5

Lies Liberals Tell, Part 5

Copyright 2017,2018,2019 Joseph Urban

Lie # 5: People Should Act Responsibly

Liberals like to think that all of us try to be responsible citizens. They tend to believe in the Golden Rule. “Treat others as you would like to be treated”. The conservatives  tends to believe in the Rule of Gold. “He who has the most gold should rule.”

Take the environment for example.  Liberals tend to believe that people, when educated, will respect the environment. They understand that acting responsibly today is the best insurance for the children of the future. They think it just makes sense that others would accept the fact that such things as clean drinking water should be accessible to all. And act accordingly. And the few who refuse to act responsibly should be fined for destroying the environment for the rest of us.

It used to be a Republican idea. A conservative principle. After all, it was the unregulated toxic dumping of chemicals into the environment that lead Richard Nixon to agree to create the Environmental Protection Agency. He understood that unless companies were regulated they would continue to dump toxic waste in our streams, rivers and landfills. Eventually passing on the clean up costs to the taxpayers. And destroying the land and water for future generations.

The intelligent response of government is reasonable regulation. But that concept is widely rejected by the far right. They simply do not accept that responsible behavior is an American value. They claim that ANY reasonable government regulation of business is, by definition, over regulation.

So, while responsible Americans understood that regulating banks so they could not take on risky loans beyond their capacity to service them was a dangerous and irresponsible practice, the right wing disagreed. Deregulating the banking industry lead to the 2nd great economic collapse, nearly another Great Depression.

These same “regulators” eagerly agreed to use billions of dollars provided by the taxpayers to  bail out the failed financial institutions. Institutions that failed because of the irresponsible behavior of the banks themselves, aided and abetted by a lack of government regulation.

The same principle applies to environmental regulations. In Flint, Michigan there were problems. Flint is the victim of the auto industry exodus which has left the city devastated. So, it has many poor people.

The Republican governor took over the control of Flint from the elected mayor. Not sure why. He basically blamed the poor for being poor and blamed the mayor for “mismanagement”. So, he installed an UNELECTED Republican to set things straight. To cut costs. At all costs. One of the first things they did was change the water supplier. From a clean source to a polluted one. And they knew it. And they didn’t care. It was cheaper. And, after all, Flint voted for Democrats. And was full of black Americans. Because of this irresponsible behavior, the children of Flint have been exposed to toxic materials. No one knows the long term effects on these babies.

The great liberal lie is that people should act responsibility. Those on the right do not hold to that view. They have no desire to “conserve” either the environment or legal system for future generations. They believe that each of us should act in ways which promote our own immediate financial well being. Period. Let our children and grandchildren deal with the mess.

The Rule of Gold, not the Golden Rule.

 

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Lies Liberals Tell, Part 4

Lies Liberal Tell, Part 4 of 7

Copyright 2017,2018,2019 Joseph Urban

Lie # 4: People Believe in Basic Fairness

Liberals tend to believe in fairness. We should treat others fairly. Justice systems should be fair and honest. Above all, elections should be fair. So the real will of the people can be expressed. So the voice of the people can be reflected in the legal  system. If systems are fair, we believe, all will eventually be right with the world. And we expect other Americans to feel the same way.

We are wrong. As the last 25 years have demonstrated, the right wing sees “fairness” as an obsolete concept. No longer part of our political life. The goal of the right wing is simple. Win. Win any election by any means necessary. Win by lying. Win by cheating. Win by suppressing votes. Win. Win. Win.

Of course, this is hardly new in American politics. It is seen most clearly in the election process. After all, the Jim Crow voting laws south of the Mason-Dixon line effectively disenfranchised American blacks for almost one hundred years. The Voting Rights Act passed in the 1960s finally  (in theory) gave blacks the same voting rights as white Americans. Basic fairness. A liberal ideal.

Then, the right wing majority on the US Supreme Court, in Shelby County vs. Holder,  gutted the Voting Rights Act. It was no longer needed. The ultra-right wing argued that  no longer did certain states intentionally seek to disenfranchise black voters. So the Court ruled. Basic fairness had been achieved. What happened next?

Two HOURS. Two HOURS after the decision was released by the SCOTUS the Texas Attorney General (now Governor) Abbott announced that a new voter ID law would go into effect immediately. Alabama followed suit. Within two months North Carolina had instituted new voter restrictions. So did Mississippi. In Florida, GOP governor Rick Scott ordered the purge from voter rolls (which failed). But Florida did move a voting center (used primarily by blacks) to a new site without access to public transportation.   South Carolina instituted new voter restrictions.

Jim Crow has returned. Fairness? Not an issue. Win by suppressing Democratic votes. Win by undermining the very concept of fair elections.

Of course, even before the gutting of voting rights there were ways to prevent  fair elections. Nothing was more clear than in the 2000 Florida election. When the governor, who happened to be the brother of a candidate for  president hired a company to purge the voting rolls. Over half of those purged were African-Americans. Who voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. And when the private company itself pointed out that , based on the state requirements, it would be purging thousands of voters who were legally entitled to vote, Governor Jeb Bush’s staff told the company to purge them anyway.  We do not know how many of these thousands of black Americans showed up at the polls and were turned away with no recourse. The election was handed to George Bush when the SCOTUS refused to allow Florida to recount its votes. It worked.

In North Carolina there was an organized effort, which succeeded, in voter fraud. A GOP candidate actually hired a man who had a history of illegal activities. He paid relatives and others to collect absentee ballots and mark  those ballots with the GOP candidate. Even after this corruption was revealed and exposed, the North Carolina GOP insists that the fraudulent election be upheld. Voter fraud is okay.

Beyond voting, liberals tend to believe the lie that the vast majority of our fellow citizens believe in fairness in the justice system. But the fact is that our justice system is not designed to produce “fair” results. It is designed to “win” cases. Whether for the state  (prosecution) or the individual (defense). Justice is not relevant. It is no accident that those who can afford to hire the best lawyers win. We see a case in Texas where a defense attorney SLEEPS during the trial, but the appeals court lets a conviction stand claiming the defendant still had “adequate representation”. (Decision finally overturned by the Fifth Circuit) .Those who can afford to stand up to the state with a competent legal team need not worry about justice.

Public defenders, with very limited budgets, seldom prevail. So, we see young adults without resources convicted of petty crimes and given criminal records while white collar criminals steal millions and walk away. Or make “restitution” and are forgiven. So, this lack of fairness has created a new money making industry, private prisons. A funneling of poor , overwhelmingly minority, Americans  from the poorest neighborhoods into the private prisons, all for profit.

Fairness, a liberal lie. Liberals still cling to the ideal, which is fine.  But we need to accept the fact that in government, in voting rights and in the court system “fairness” is a commodity in short supply. We also need to accept the fact that many of our fellow citizens think this is just fine. They do not see “fairness” as a legitimate goal of government. Win at any cost is their mantra.

 

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Lies Liberals Tell, Part 3

Lies Liberal Tell, Part 3 of 7

Copyright 2017,2018,2019 Joseph Urban

Lie # 3:  These People Mean Well

Liberals tend to be trusting. No doubt. If you want to cheat someone, find a liberal. So, even when it comes to political opponents liberals tend to think the best of people. We tend to believe that people who have honest disagreements with us nevertheless have the best interests of the nation at heart.

We are wrong. It is a liberal lie we tell ourselves. And because of that lie we are not tough enough in dealing with people who are just plain nasty. The far right understands this weakness much better than we do. Because we think the best of people we accept the nastiness and political criminal class as just folks who have  a different worldview but have essentially the same goals. A better society. We are wrong.

Take a look at our healthcare system. When FDR was president he tried to institute a national health care system that would help all Americans achieve some level  of insurance. He failed. As did Bill Clinton. It was only in the 21st century that the US finally came close to a system that provided some coverage for almost all Americans.

This happened only because for a brief 2 year period the Democrats, liberals and moderate, held slim majorities in Congress and were able to pass a complex Affordable Care Act. Despite being based on the Republican plan in Massachusetts developed by Mitt Romney and despite including a number of GOP ideas, some from the Heritage Foundation, not a single member of the Republican, right wing party voted to pass this law.

The law was not a government “takeover” of healthcare. It was simply an extension of Medicare to poor working families and a clearinghouse in which citizens could compare private health insurance plans in their states. And it provided help for those who, in the past, could not afford decent health insurance. Over 20,000,000 Americans benefited.

What has been the right wing response to this plan. Vote after vote after vote to repeal it. With nothing in place to help the 20,000,000 who would lose insurance for their families. No concern for people with pre-existing conditions who could not get insurance in the past. No concern for the working poor who, because of the conservative Republican Congress refusals to tie minimum wage increases to inflation, are not able to afford basic medical care. The right wing response is not a solution to any problem, it is simply nasty.

Then we have the GOP led state governments. Even though the federal government agreed to pick up the tab for the working poor in states like Georgia and Mississippi so the working poor could get on Medicaid, the state governments refused. They intentionally denied health care to their own citizens. Health care that they could have gotten with no increase in state budgets. Just plain nasty.

Seventeen states, all of them with GOP governors, rejected expanding health care for their own working poor.  Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. In three more states the governor actually wanted to expand Medicaid, but the GOP controlled legislatures rejected their own governor. Those states would be North Carolina, Utah and Virginia. And one state, Louisiana, implemented the plan over the objection of the GOP governor, Bobby Jindal.

So, millions of the working poor and their families still do not have adequate health insurance for no other reason than the governors and legislatures of those states did not like Mr Obama. Nastiness, plain and simple. These are not people on welfare. People gaming the system. These are people working for wages so low they cannot provide their children and families with basic health insurance.

We can look at other areas like raising the minimum wage and see the same mentality.

Liberals have to stop accepting the lie that “these people mean well”. They don’t . These right wing leaders of state governments do not mean well. The majority leader of the Senate does not “mean well”. The so-called “Freedom Caucus” does not “mean well”. They systematically and knowingly keep their own citizens from acquiring basic medical coverage. They reject minimum wage proposals that would give hard working citizens a few more bucks in their pocket. They cut social service funding to those who need birth control or medicine or decent housing or better schools..

The liberal lie that “these people mean well” is naive. We attribute to these folks a level of decency that they have never exhibited. We simply cannot make ourselves believe that these government “leaders” at the state and national level are intentionally nasty. They are . Their actions speak for their intentions.  No matter how they try to rationalize their actions it is clear. They do not care about their fellow citizens. At least not the ones who we identify as the working poor.

It is time for liberals to accept the fact. Many of our fellow citizens are just plain nasty. They do NOT mean well. They do not see themselves as constitutionally responsible for the “common welfare”. They control and use government to feather their own nests and provide for their own economic well being. The working poor be damned.

 

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Lies Liberals Tell, Part 2

Lies Liberals Tell, Part 2 of 7.

Copyright Joseph Urban,  2007,2008,2009

Lie #2: People can be reasoned with.

Liberals have always put a high premium on reason and logic. We believe that when confronted with evidence and facts, people will inevitably accept the sensible solutions. We think that “if only” these folks would seriously think about and analyze the social situation they would come to a reasonable conclusion. Like we do.

The second liberal lie.

Definition of “Reason” : the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.

Let’s take the claim, repeated over and over, that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. While liberals and moderates dismissed this as the nonsense that it is, many on the right wing continue, even today, to believe this obvious lie.

Donald Trump, elected president, for 6 years continued to make this claim. It was a claim designed to delegitimize the first black president of the US. Plain and simple. It is a claim that was based on nothing more than someone’s unsubstantiated fantasy.

But, surveys showed that more than half of the GOP electorate continued to believe this claim. A claim made with no reliable evidence.  A claim so obviously unreasonable and false that it hardly needed denying.

Liberals think that people will look at facts and evidence, use their logic and come to reasonable conclusions. So let’s look at the “evidence” of Barack Obama’s birth.

When Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, 2 different newspapers had birth announcements. Two newspapers. Two announcements. A logical person would ask the question: Why would 2 newspapers in Hawaii print a birth announcement of a child born in Kenya by claiming this baby was born in Hawaii? Why would a hospital in Hawaii provide false information to newspapers concerning the birth of a child at the hospital? A reasonable person would ask what could be the possible motivation for a hospital and two newspapers to falsely claim a baby was born in Hawaii?

Now, the “birthers”, including Donald Trump, claim that they have proof that Obama was born in Kenya because a woman claiming to be Obama’s grandmother said she SAW his birth. This was based on an audiotape which purported to be an interview with Barack Obama’s paternal grandmother.

So, a reasonable person would make sure the old lady WAS Obama’s grandmother, listen to the tape, and make a reasonable conclusion. Let us assume the old lady on the audiotape was Obama’s grandmother. So, we listen to the tape. Understand that we do not know what the grandmother says, since she does not speak English. So, we have a translator who is a middle man.

On one part of the tape the translator seems to say that YES, this old lady claims she was at the BIRTH of her famous grandson. And this is where the “birthers” cut off the tape. This is the basis for their claim. An old lady who does not speak English says, according to a translator, that she SAW Barack being born. As the audiotape continues the interviewer asks her to repeat her answer to the question. He wants to get it clearly on tape that Obama was born in Kenya.

But then we see a problem. When the translator continues to talk to the old lady it quickly becomes evident that something was lost in translation. Yes, the grandmother proudly states, Barack Obama IS her grandson. But NO, she did not SEE his birth because he was not born in Kenya. She is clear. The translator is clear. This old lady, whether Obama’s grandmother or not, did NOT see Barack Obama born in Kenya.

But wait.  There is more. What about the birth certificate? Now, Hawaii does provide COPIES of birth certificates. If you need one, you pay for one. I presume it is the same in most states.  I have a COPY of my birth certificate from a hospital in Chicago. I don’t have the ORIGINAL. Why not? Because ORIGINAL documents are not provided. Why not? Because they are ORIGINALS. They are kept in government archives. No one is given an ORIGINAL, not even the President of the United States.. But the “birthers” made a big deal out the fact that Obama did not release his ORIGINAL birth certificate. He could not. He never had it. But Hawaii DID release PHOTOCOPIES of the original. And they even allowed reporters to view the original birth certificate in the Hawaiian archives.

A logical, reasonable person would then look  at these pieces of evidence and conclude that a baby named Barack Hussein Obama was born to a US citizen mother in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. A logical person would have no alternative but to conclude as much.

We can apply the same logic to climate change deniers, voter fraud claims, 9/11 conspiracy theories, Sasquatch sightings, aliens abductions, groundwater contamination by fracking  and a multitude of other claims. Are any of these claims valid? Liberals think we should should look at evidence, use logic and draw reasonable conclusions.

But, as the acceptance of  false ideas demonstrates, millions of Americans reject logic and evidence as a tool for analyzing data. They simply choose to believe what they want to believe and reject evidence to the contrary.

Liberals need to come to grips with the fact that millions of our fellow citizens have no desire or ability to use logic or reason. No inclination to accept evidence. When we argue from facts and evidence, our conclusions fall on deaf ears. The thought processes of many is similar to those who sought to ferret out witches in the Middle Ages.  If the accused floats, she is a witch and must be burned at the stake. If the accused sinks and drowns, well, I guess she was not a witch after all. You simply cannot argue with that “logic”

Liberals need to understand that reason, logic and evidence are irrelevant to many. They simply cannot be reasoned with.

Part 1: https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/lies-liberals-tell-part-1/

 

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Lies Liberals Tell, Part 1

Lies Liberals Tell  (Confessions of a Born-Again Liberal)

Copyright 2017,2018,2019 Joseph Urban

Part 1 of a 7 part series.

The elevation of Donald Trump to the position of most powerful human being on the planet Earth should make all of us re-examine our most basic beliefs about mankind. Of course, Donald Trump did not win the majority of votes. (Latest count shows him losing by almost 3,000,000 votes) So his philosophy and beliefs do not reflect the values of most Americans. Nevertheless, he was able to garner enough votes in enough states to win the electoral college majority. So, while he is a “minority” president, the mere fact that he was even close in the popular vote this election gives us pause and causes us to reconsider where we stand as liberals. Furthermore, the fact that he exercises immense power with little or no regard to the desires of the majority must make us more than a little worried.

As a lifelong liberal I have had a number of core beliefs challenged by this development.  Perhaps liberals have been lying to themselves about America and what it stands for. Perhaps we need to dispose of illusions and lies we have been telling ourselves. In this short 7 part series  I will discuss some of the beliefs, which have turned out to be lies, that liberals have held for years. Things we thought were true. We have been dead wrong.

I am not suggesting that we abandon these ideas and beliefs. But we need to accept the reality that significant minorities of our population do not hold the same core beliefs that we do. We can no longer take for granted that most Americans share these core values and beliefs. In order to go forward in a practical way, we need to accept the reality that we have been, in large part, lying to ourselves about a significant number of  citizens of The United States.

Lies are organized into the following categories.

  1. Society
  2. Reason
  3. Mean Well
  4. Fairness
  5. Responsibility
  6. Inevitability of Progress
  7. It Can’t Happen Here

Lie # 1: We are all in this together in society.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Those are the first words of the US Constitution. “We”. Not “I”. We . We will establish a government that supports society. Remember that after the Revolutionary War the 13 colonies formed a union. The Articles of Confederation knit together the colonies in a loose union based on the interests of individual states. The United States , in the sense that we know it today, was not an easy sell. (See the Federalist Papers for a thorough discussion of the issues).

To form a more perfect union. The founding fathers discovered that a loose union would not last. It would either break apart into sectionalism or completely dissolve as each state demanded sovereignty and independence. The result would be a weakened group of states. Easy prey for European nations seeking dominance.  The weakness would be an invitation to chaos and interference by foreign powers.

The solution was to develop a document that guaranteed some unity among the diverse parts of states along the eastern seaboard. The Preamble to the Constitution establishes the philosophical framework for that unity. An attempt to pull together  the north and south, the rural and urban, the large states and small ones, into a cohesive society. Only by uniting the divergent elements into a new society could unity be secured.

So, we have, at the very beginnings of the United States, the fundamental understanding that “society” was the key to success. And how do we attempt to build this new society? By establishing the purposes of government. Clearly, these purposes were to unite , not divide. The divisions were already there. Clear. The need was to superimpose on those divisions a system that would  lead to national unity.

Establishing justice. A liberal idea, that justice is the key to any acceptance of a new system. People should be treated fairly and justly. For society to function people need to accept that they will be treated fairly. To do otherwise leads to dissolution or revolution. After all, the Revolutionary War was fought because a large segment of the population felt that British tax laws were unjust.

Promote the general welfare. The idea that government should be active, not passive, in developing plans and assistance to benefit society. Government has been established to facilitate what is good for people and society in general.  So we see in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution a laundry list of practical steps Congress should take to promote the general welfare. Among them are such things as coining money and regulating trade. Building roads for the public. Establishing post offices.  Doing whatever is needed to promote science and “useful arts” by securing patent rights. To raise money and pay debts as needed for the military and general welfare.

We see an active national government. One that does not sit back. One that actively pursues, through taxation and other legal remedies, the general welfare of society. A government involved in people’s lives in order to help make those lives better and fuller. A government, by its very nature, designed to benefit its citizens individually and collectively .

This basic concept, that the US Constitution is established, in part, to provide for a just and good society, was at the core of the Constitution. It has also been a core belief of liberalism. Because, the fact is, the designers of the Constitution were extremely liberal for their time. While they were still acting in ways that we would consider reactionary today, but that the overall sense of the document is certainly liberal at its core. A new type of government. Designed to assist the people and develop society, as opposed to the old way of thinking that government should serve the elites at the expense of the peasantry.

Don’t all Americans agree with this fundamental truth? This is the first liberal lie we tell ourselves.

American liberals tend to accept the idea that the proper role of government is to assist and support society. That includes society’s weakest members as well as the most fortunate ones.

However, the emergence of the “new right” under Ronald Reagan and continuing through the Bushes and Trump puts that belief to the test.  John F Kennedy, in his inaugural address said: …”Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country…” (society). Ronald Reagan replied in his first inaugural address: “…government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem”.

Reagan and those who  follow his philosophy turn the Preamble to the US Constitution on its head. Government, they believe, is not supposed to “promote the general welfare” Quite the opposite. Government should promote the elites and let society devolve into a dog-eat-dog world. Greed is good. Regulation is evil. Society exists only as a battleground of self-interest and self-promotion, not as a cooperative venture where all of us have a stake and where all people can participate fully. Some must lose big time so others can win big time.

Liberals need to recognize that the seductive “me-first” ideology has taken hold of a very significant portion of people in America. They have been propagandized into accepting the notion, which is at odds with the Preamble, that they should reject idea of the “common good”. That the “common good”  is seen as equivalent to communism or Marxism. This distorted notion of the role of government has taken hold and forms the basis for the “new right”. They incorrectly assume that any “public good” must inevitably lead to some kind of communistic equality. They are blind to the Constitutional mandate to promote the general  welfare.

So, liberals need to recognize that millions of Americans no longer hold to the founding fathers’ core belief. Of course, to liberals the contradiction is glaring.

For example, the states that consistently vote for the “less government”,  new right, largely Republican candidates are the very states that benefit most from the federal treasury. These “welfare states” take much more from the federal government than they send to Washington, DC in taxes. While they condescendingly refer to others as “takers” they themselves have not paid their own way in years, if ever.

Nevertheless, liberals need to deal with the reality. Millions of Americans no longer support a key tenet of the Constitution, that government has a significant role in maintaining a just society and is responsible for promoting a good society.

 

 

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What’s Not To Like?

Donald Trump was on the Hannity TV Show the other night. They talked about Kim Jong Un. Here is part of the exchange:

“He was optimistic about the future: “Again, the relationship is very good,” Trump said. “He likes me. I like him.”

“Some people say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t like him,’ ” he continued. “I said, ‘Why shouldn’t I like him? I like him. We get along great. We’ll see what happens.’ ”

Kim Jong-Un. What’s not to like?

He did allow the torture and murder of Otto Warmbier. But to be fair, Ottto broke the law. He stole a poster from a wall. He stole a poster . He stole a poster. Did you get that? And for stealing a poster he was brutalized. He was put on TV in North Korea where he tearfully begged for forgiveness for the high crime of stealing a poster. He seems ok on TV.  A little shaken.

By the time he was flown out of North Korea his teeth had been mangled. He needed IV tubes. He went into a coma. He stole a poster in Kim’s North Korea.

“He likes me. I like him.” What’s not to like?

According to a Newseek report: “Amidst political tensions, an estimated 18 million people across DPRK [North Korea] continue to suffer from food insecurity and undernutrition, as well as a lack of access to basic services,” the U.N. report said. “Furthermore, 10.5 million people, or 41 percent of the total population are undernourished.”

Kim is a little fat guy. He gets plenty of food. He spends almost 25% of the GDP of his nation on the military. 25%. And he allows 4 out of every 10 North Koreans to be underfed. Stalinesque. He gets plenty of food. Dines well. The average spending on the military around the world is 2% of GDP. Kim, while people he controls starve, spends 25%.

“He likes me. I like him.” What’s not to like?

From the British paper, the Mirror:

“It is hard to imagine a grimmer existence than that of an inmate in a North Korean prison camp.

Deprived of food, they are forced to eat rats and frogs to survive housed in cramped cells infested with lice. Regular beatings and potentially fatal torture are the norm. Then there is the hard labour, which includes pulling ploughs across fields for 12 hours a day….

An estimated 200,000 victims of Kim Jong-un’s despotic rule are thought to be living lives of utter wretchedness in his internment camps at any one time.

The camps are patrolled by guards equipped with automatic rifles, hand grenades and trained dogs.

Prisoners are routinely deprived of water and food torture includes ‘sleep deprivation, beatings with iron rods or sticks, kicking and slapping, and enforced sitting or standing for hours’, is routine,

Inmates are allowed just one set of clothes they live and die in rags without soap, socks, underclothes or sanitary napkins.”

Prison camps. Hard labor. For crimes such as ripping up a photo of Kim’s father. Or stealing a poster. Or being friendly with a Chinese man. Or , well, whatever Kim decides today is a crime.  The Korean Gulag.

“He likes me. I like him.” What’s not to like?

So, Mr President. You LIKE Kim.You admire him just like you admire all “strong” leaders. What’s not to like? If you are Donald Trump, evidently nothing.

ttps://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/03/01/trump-kim-jong-un-why-shouldnt-i-like-him/?utm_term=.aab4fe062177

https://www.newsweek.com/north-koreas-kim-jong-un-starving-his-people-pay-nuclear-weapons-573015

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/north-korea-prisons-otto-warmier-10653494

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