Ken’s Take on the World


Twinks and Trump

Today I read an Op-Ed in The Huffington Post regarding an actual group called, “Twinks 4 Trump.”  I learned there are actually two such things http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/im-a-gay-dad-and-heres-what-i-want-the-twinks-4-trump_us_57a469aae4b0ccb02372168d  One site is, apparently, a parody site with all photographs and the like.  The other is actually a group of younger gay guys who claim to be conservative who further claim to support Mr. Trump in his campaign to become the 45th President of the United States.  The founder of this second group is a young man named Lucian Wintrich.  He attempts to articulate reasons for being a, “conservative” and a supporter of Donald Trump here: http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/8/02/twinks4trump-creator-5-things-media-gets-wrong-about-gay-conservatives  The problem with his message, and I applaud, “The Advocate” for including this, is that Mr. Wintrich missed the memo that neither Mr. Trump, nor the Republican Party are conservative in any sense of the word.

 

Many Republicans are claiming that the GOP is the opposite of the Democratic Party.  They are correct as many who claim to be Democrats say the same thing.  The problem that supporters of the Grand Old Party miss is that the opposite of, “progressive” is not, “conservative.”  The antonym of progressive is actually regressive and this is what today’s Republican Party seeks to impose on our great nation.  This is a message they have honed and promoted over the past 50 years, long before Mr. Wintrich was even born.  Lucian Wintrich and another, “alt-right” golden boy, Milo Yiannopoulos, were not even born until after some of the biggest challenges facing the LGBT community had already been fought.  They reap the benefits of the hard-fought efforts of thousands of people who refused to back down in the face of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, and violence.  I wonder if either of them have even read about Stonewall, Anita Bryant, the AIDS epidemic, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Harvey Milk, Leonard Matlovich, ACT-UP, the Mattachine Society, and others who really paved the way for the lives they are free to lead today?  I will not sit idly by while the demagogues of the Republican Party seek to roll back all of the progress made to prevent discrimination and promote equality for all people.  I will not stand around while Republicans attempt to roll back the economic advancements that have occurred over the past eight years.

 

This phenomenon, that is the fallacy of a GOP that is a tolerant and inclusive political party, is not limited to this group of younger, mostly white, guys.  We have already learned the Republican Party Platform that was approved at this year’s Republican National Committee (RNC) convention is the most notoriously anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history!!  Another group that has been supportive of the GOP for years is the Log Cabin Republicans who have also failed to recognize the messaging they claim to support regarding smaller government and fiscal responsibility is not embodied in the principles or actions of the GOP today.  And yet, someone like Mr. Yiannopoulos proclaims Mr. Trump to be the, “most pro-gay candidate in history!”  While Mr. Trump is not the most anti-gay candidate in modern history, it is clear by his statements that he is not remotely, “pro-gay.”  At best, Donald Trump is apathetic to the concerns of the LGBT community.  He has promised to appoint judges who would reverse marriage equality and other non-discrimination measures that protect LGBT citizens.  I guess folks like Wintrich and Yiannopoulos think uttering the acronym, “LGBTQ” during an acceptance speech is proof the Republican Party has finally embraced them.  For the record, Mr. Trump’s use of this nomenclature was used in reference to an attack by a Muslim on a gay nightclub in Florida that left 49 people dead and many more wounded.  It should also be noted that Mr. Trump appeared surprised that no one on the convention floor booed at his use of this language.  This comment was not in support of LGBT people, it was designed to stoke hatred of Muslims!!  This is what was being applauded on the convention floor. http://reason.com/blog/2016/08/03/lgbtq-at-the-rnc-and-dnc

 

I can only hope that, “twinks” like Mr. Wintrich and Mr. Yiannopoulos come to their senses and realize there is no place at the table within today’s Republican Party for LGBT people.  The messaging of the party today is not one of inclusiveness.  It is about divisiveness, bigotry, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and hatred.  There is hardly any reference to fiscal responsibility.  There has been no message of hope or tolerance.  I am happy that folks like Lucian and Milo can live their lives as they see fit and I truly hope they will never have to face the challenges faced by those who came before me and that my generation experienced.

 

I would challenge Mr. Wintrich and Mr. Yiannopoulos to articulate what they believe are the actual, “conservative” principles they believe they are supporting.  I look forward to seeing, or hearing, what they have to say on that.  I am pretty certain they will be limited to the bigoted, xenophobic, arguments espoused by the Republican candidate for President and these are not conservative principles at all.



Trumpets of Doom

This past week we were exposed to the spectacle that was the Republican National Convention.  I managed to catch bits and pieces of different speeches and read the running commentary on my Twitter feed and on Facebook.  I did take the time to watch the candidate, himself, give his acceptance speech on Thursday night.  What I observed this week is, to say the least, troubling for me as a progressive, voting, American.  The RNC convention was filled with darkness and despair.  It was, in a word, un-American, in my opinion.

 

From the refusal of the convention rules committee to respect the wishes of delegates in voting on the party platform on Monday, to the gaffes of color-coding elevator banks (White Elevators), posting white supremacist Tweets and anti-Semitic Tweets, and plagiarizing speeches, the promotion of an idea that the Democrat opponent would be arrested and jailed if Mr. Trump was elected President, and the very ugly idea that the Democratic nominee be marched in front of a firing squad by the Republican nominee’s veterans adviser, the campaign presented an ugly and hate-filled image to the world and, specifically, to Americans who are being asked to select the 45th President of the United States of America.  Even an innocuous photo showing Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan posing with the 2016 class of Republican interns demonstrated the big problem facing the Republican Party moving forward.  Surely, the Republican Party could have done better than this.

 

The events of this past week in Cleveland demonstrate a palpable anger of a large number of white Americans, a sense of frustration that transcends the typical values the Grand Old Party establishment has espoused for the past half century.  Make no mistake, the GOP has pushed the idea of racial politic for its benefit since the 1960’s.  The major difference during this campaign cycle is that the nominee has openly endorsed the idea that white people are losing ground to minorities in this country.  There is the explicit promise that Mr. Trump will, “take America back.”  Take it back from who?  Give the nation back to whom, exactly?  This nation belongs to each of us, Mr. Trump.  Each of us already has an ownership stake in the greatest nation on Earth!!  On the topic of greatness, Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan is, “Make America Great Again.”  Personally, I believe that any candidate who does not believe the United States of America is not currently the greatest nation on the planet is not fit to lead our country.  Hey, Donald Trump, if the United States of America is not currently the greatest nation in the world, tell us who we need to best to regain the title!!  Mr. Trump misses the point that greatness does not mean perfection.  The greatest leaders throughout history each had flaws.  This goes for individuals and nations.

 

President Franklin Roosevelt, in his first inauguration speech said, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”  http://www.historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057  Mr. Trump, in his acceptance speech pushed a sense of fear throughout his speech.  I have to give him credit in that he recognizes that fear is, perhaps, the most powerful motivator of all living things.  Unfortunately, fear is not what makes a nation, or a leader, great.  In times of trouble or anxiety, people look to a leader for inspiration and hope.  For confidence and a sense of security.  People look for firm, rational, statements and assurances of how safety and security can be established.  Mr. Trump stoked the flames of fear in his campaign speech but failed to offer any rational assurances that he could provide this.  This consistent lack of substance does not appear to faze his supporters.  In fact, Mr. Trump has said that his supporters don’t care about policy.  His supporters may not care, however, those of us who consider ourselves thoughtful and rational, demand this information in order to make an informed decision at the voting booth!!  He commented that he will be the law and order President, but has demonstrated through his comments and prior speeches that he has no understanding of the law nor a desire to operate within the law.  Mr. Trump has been described as having an authoritarian management style.  Studies on authoritarians who have risen to power demonstrate that when people are so fearful, they have a tendency to turn to an authoritarian leader, regardless of qualifications, or lack thereof.  This is what Mr. Trump is counting on—that people are so irrationally fearful they will fall in line behind his campaign.  Thus far this has worked as he managed to beat out his, much better qualified, opponents in the primary campaign.  The problem with authoritarian politicians is that they tend to be brutal and violent towards their opponents, both domestically and globally.  Regarding the wealthy, and the bankers, FDR further stated, “They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.”  I have said on multiple occasions that Mr. Trump is primarily out to benefit himself.  He is a narcissist and demonstrates an unwillingness to compromise with others.  He has boasted of this in interviews, speeches, and in his books.  This is not the attitude of our nation’s diplomatic face to the world.  Even more dangerous, Donald Trump has praised the ideas of other authoritarian leaders including Vladimir Putin and Adolph Hitler.  Likewise, the current leaders of Russia and North Korea have praised Mr. Trump’s leadership style.  I am concerned when foes of this nation begin to praise a candidate for US President.

 

Mr. Trump has further raised the ire of leaders of nations that we consider allies.  This past week, he suggested that the United States may not honor agreements made with European nations should they be attacked by another state power.  Nothing instills confidence in our friends, or gives pause to our enemies, like a potential US President who says you’re on your own.  He has said that other nation’s should be free to pursue nuclear weapons and has refused to rule out the use of such weapons if faced with a tactical threat or even as a deterrent to non-state players on the battlefield.  Such commentary is not only irresponsible from a Presidential candidate, it is reckless and dangerous.

 

Perhaps, the most concerning thing about Donald Trump is that he is not a, one-off, an anomaly within the Republican Party.  Mr. Trump has become the face of the base of the contemporary Republican Party.  This twice-divorced, socially-moderate, candidate for US President has gained the support of Evangelical Christians.  He has been endorsed by anti-LGBT and anti-abortion, so-called, “family values” organizations even though he does not support these views.  This is why he has selected Governor Mike Pence of Indiana to be his Vice President.  Governor Pence is staunchly anti-LGBT and anti-women’s rights.  He has actually been endorsed by white-supremacists, the American Nazi Party, and other racist individuals and groups.  This should serve to inform the logical, reasoned person that Mr. Trump is a dangerous individual to be considered for the position of Commander-in-Chief of our nation’s Armed Forces and as the principal law enforcement officer of the United States.  The battle for control of the soul of the Republican Party has been won by a racist, bigoted, theocratic-minded bloc.  The fight for the hearts and minds of the people of the United States of America now begins.  While irrational fear is an incredibly powerful motivator, I maintain confidence that hope is an even more powerful motivator.



Dog Whistles and Trumpeteers

The rise of Donald Trump to become the leading front-runner for the Republican nomination to be President of the United States has been surprising to me.  At least upon first glance.  When one looks deeper, this success should actually not be too surprising for anyone to recognize.  Not only has his elevation and, apparent success, in the polls continued to surprise me, it has also filled me with a sense of disappointment and sadness.  I am not saddened by his success, after all, how can anyone be made sad by witnessing the success of another person.  I am saddened, however, by what his current success in the Republican primaries is premised on.

 

Mr. Trump has been a successful businessman.  Yes, like all great business people, he has had his failures.  His initial wealth was inherited which I do not fault him for.  There are many great people who also inherited great wealth.  I believe he exploits others for his personal gain and that makes him unethical and a poor role model.  Prior to his current entry into politics, I would have never guessed that he would be considered by anyone, let alone describe himself, as a, “conservative.”  The only casual link I can identify between a conservative philosophy and Mr. Trump is that he is a business person and I have always tended to think that responsible, self-made, business people trend somewhat conservative, at least financially.  Mr. Trump does not fit the mold that I imagine of the conservative business person.  He is extravagant, opulent, boisterous, and brash.  None of these are qualities I would associate with a truly conservative persona.

 

Donald Trump has increased his personal fortune through real estate, gambling establishments, and other businesses.  He has owned an airline, hotels, casinos, and has had his name attached to steaks, water, and other consumer products.  He has experienced successes and failures with these operations.  When his businesses were failing he sought out bankruptcy protections.  These are completely legal processes, however, they are inconsistent with a conservative philosophy of personal responsibility.  Bankruptcy is generally harmful to creditors and, when it involves a business, it is always harmful to the workers.  A President Trump cannot take the United States of America through bankruptcy court.  His economic ideas, he has not advanced any specific policies, are not fiscally-conservative by any means.

 

His personal life makes it even more unfathomable that he would consider himself a conservative and even less likely that he should have the support of those who consider themselves to be, “social-conservatives.”  He has been married multiple times, engaged in affairs, made crude references towards women and to male and female genitalia.  Things that I would have automatically assumed would disgust evangelical Christians and other religiously devout individuals.  I am not judging him, mind you, I am only at a loss to comprehend his support from those who have expressed condemnation of adultery, divorce, non-monogamy, and homosexuality.  On other areas of social conflict, including abortion, I did not even think Mr. Trump had expressed a position.  In fact, I would have laid money on the idea that he was not opposed to abortion, homosexuality, or infidelity.

 

What is it, then, that fuels Mr. Trump’s rise among the Republican base?  It is not his fiscal constraint nor his fiscal responsibility.  It is not his social mores.  And, yet, a large percentage of his supporters in the primary elections are those who claim to be fiscally-conservative and/or socially-conservative.  It would appear that he is the antithesis of a candidate that these individuals would coalesce behind.  The answer must lie deeper.  It is within these deeper layers that we begin to see the origins of Donald Trump’s rise, and more importantly, of the reasons underlying his support.  The Republican establishment and those who serve in Washington understand, all too well, where this support comes from and they are suddenly afraid of being exposed for this dark philosophy as well.

 

The truth is much darker, and much uglier, than anyone could imagine.  It harkens back to the days of slavery and the effectiveness with which Mr. Trump promotes this ugliness the more likely it becomes that the Grand Old Party is at a crucial junction in its existence.

 

From the mid-1950’s, through today, the Republican Party has promoted a philosophy that trends socially-regressive.  It is based on the promotion of fear and anxiety.  From the racial segregation and anti-Communist policies of the 1950’s to the continuing opposition to equality for women since the 1970’s, to the opposition to homosexuality, including non-discrimination and marriage equality, and into recent battles over transgender equality and immigration, the GOP has incorporated the language of fear and increasingly narrowed its base to disaffected white, heterosexual, poorly-educated, Christians.  From the end of slavery, conservatives have used innuendo like a dog whistle to create scapegoats of minority groups in order to advance a white agenda that opposes equality for anyone else.  The Republican Party began to capitalize upon this idea in the 1950’s by promoting fear over reason.  By the 1980’s the Grand Old Party solidified its base of white, Christian, males. The stoking of fear of the, “others” is what has created a, mostly, homogenous base of Republican voters.  The GOP has mastered the art of, “Us versus Them” in politics.  If you are different, in any way, you are not, “Us.”  It is this sense of fear or anxiety that allows the Republican Party to recruit poor whites, who are most harmed by Republican economic policies.  It is for this reason that a candidate like Donald Trump has had the ability to rise so rapidly up the hierarchy of Republican politics to, possibly, become its official standard-bearer.  In light of this, it is really not so surprising that Mr. Trump has emerged as a viable candidate for the Republican Party.  The Republican establishment has employed the use of fear-based rhetoric like a dog whistle for so long that the trumpeting of such dialogue would naturally draw certain supporters out from hiding.

 

It is extremely disturbing, however, that a candidate, from any political party, seeking to be a candidate to become President of the United States would actively support, or tacitly endorse, such un-American values.  It is not that any person should be so naïve as to deny the existence of prejudice in this nation.  Neither, should one be surprised that there are some people in 2016 who are bigots or racists.  I am more troubled by the fact that there is such widespread support for the ugliness of racism, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia within this great nation.  This has become even more apparent immediately after the election, in 2008, of President Barack Obama as Republicans immediately expressed genuine hope that he would fail.  It is the extent to which these attitudes pervade our nation that is most alarming to me.  This is something that is genuinely surprising and bothersome.  I find this disgusting and would never support a political candidate that condones such vile attitudes.



Craniorectal Inversion Syndrome (CRIS)

The substandard IQ and illiteracy associated with Craniorectal Inversion Syndrome (CRIS) are symptoms generally present among those who misidentify themselves as, “conservative,” as opposed to those who are referred to as, “progressive,” or, “liberal.”  These individuals are actually confirmed upon examination and testing, and then diagnosed as being, “pseudo-conservative” as opposed to, “conservative.”  The syndrome is also referred to as Cranial-Rectal Impaction Syndrome, however, this is inaccurate as the head is not actually, “impacted.”  This incorrect term has been promoted by some on the right-wing of the political spectrum.  The cranium can easily be removed from within the rectum, however, the individual suffering from CRIS fears the result of exposure to evidence-based information making it challenging to address this disorder.  The most extreme cases of Craniorectal Inversion Syndrome, the proper medical term for this condition, involve the spewing of fecal matter from the oral opening while the head remains firmly transposed within the rectum.  The correlation between poor educational achievement and the propensity to vote for political candidates who actively promote economic, domestic, and foreign policy positions that are detrimental to them is well documented in those afflicted.  For example, it is well known that those who do not attain an educational level beyond the traditional K12 educational spectrum leads individuals to vote for political candidates they know will promote legislation that is detrimental to their well-being.  For example, Republican candidates for elected office often run on a platform that promotes wealth redistribution by taking tax dollars from middle class and working families and diverts these revenues to the wealthiest corporations and families.  This is counterintuitive to the economic instincts, and financial stability, of the middle class and the working class economic strata and can, perhaps, be explained by a lack of knowledge about basic economics.  None other than Bush strategist, Karl Rove, who explains that as individuals gain more knowledge they become significantly LESS likely to vote for Republican candidates.  This was confirmed within the past few days by the leading Republican candidate for President, Donald Trump confirming that the GOP depends on ignorant voters in order to win elections.  It is interesting that individual income, or social status, is an inconsistent marker for voting for a conservative or progressive political candidate, however, attainment of knowledge is a powerful predictor of political persuasion with good sensitivity and specificity.  The better educated and informed an individual becomes, the less likely the individual will develop CRIS and the less likely they will be to vote for political candidates who claim to be conservative on social or economic issues.

 

Pseudo-conservatives differ from actual conservatives in many ways.  The most obvious is demonstrated in the complete and utter inability to use documented evidence and proven facts to participate in rational and civilized debate over actual issues that are presented to them.  While conservatives are able to engage and participate in constructive dialogue with people of differing viewpoints to address serious challenges, pseudo-conservatives who suffer from CRIS are unable to do so based on the limited feedback they are able to process on account of confinement and, likely, a lack of oxygen afforded them due to head placement.  Pseudo-conservatives are limited to repeating limited bits of information presented, and amplified, within the echo chamber that their syndrome results from.  Pseudo-conservatives can also be identified by the typical, and frequent, use of insults and profanity as standard linguistic technique during arguments.  While conservatives are able to visualize and adapt to progress and change just as progressives are able to do, the pseudo-conservative actually wants to reverse the space-time continuum in order to physically transport an entire nation backwards in time.  The pseudo-conservative fails to recognize that doing so would eliminate many of the great advancements that have been achieved through scientific knowledge and research.  Medicines, computers, seat-belts, powerful firearms, CT scans, MRI scans, faster jet travel, fuel efficient and affordable motor vehicles, space exploration, the internet, robotic surgery, the ability to limit civilian casualties during war, and the like would not exist without progress.  Pseudo-conservatives, due to their ignorance of history and scientific theory, likely resulting from the over-reliance on religious texts to formulate their knowledge base, are unable to process this using logic and reason.  This lack of intellect leaves the pseudo-conservative open to ridicule, not only from actual conservatives and progressives, but also from the conservative political candidates who are able to easily manipulate their limited thought processes, and knowledge base, into supporting their ideas.  The inability to think critically, means the pseudo-conservative with CRIS is extremely likely to support an extremist political candidate that vocalizes simplistic messages that are void of any substantive or realistic ideas.  These ideas often suggest racist, misogynistic, or bigoted ideologies.  While social theories recognize that individuals often prefer to interact and collaborate with other similarly-situated individuals and groups, those with an ability to use logic and reason are able to network and participate in mutually beneficial goals with others who possess different racial, ethnic, religious, political, cultural, social, or economic backgrounds.  Due to the inability, or outright opposition, to processing proven information and facts, the pseudo-conservative is extremely likely to collaborate only with other individuals afflicted with CRIS.  The condition is actually curable, however the only available treatment is restriction of vocally-conferred information from talk-radio hosts and intense exposure to factually-supported information from legitimate sources of knowledge.  Public libraries, educational institutions, and government agencies can be helpful with this.  Much more so than the internet which may serve only as a placebo if the patient is not highly selective.  Exposure to certain visual media, including Fox News, Breitbart, and the like will further exacerbate the condition.  I hope this helps!!



The “Others!!”

Watching Mr. Donald Trump win three of the first four Republican Presidential primary contests has been a frustrating, and troubling, experience for this self-identified progressive, independent American.  Political pundits have been explaining for the past several months there is no way Mr. Trump could possibly earn the GOP nomination to be President.  In the past few weeks, this narrative has changed to an assessment of how the Republican establishment has failed to contain the damage he has wrought on their party.  The sad and very tragic truth is that what we are seeing in America has not been introduced by the reality show star, real estate mogul, and entertainer, but by decades of intentional actions by the Republican Party establishment.

 

As a result of increasing social disapproval of racial discrimination, especially in more populous and northern states, throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, and particularly fueled by the overturning of Jim Crow laws that had existed since the period of Reconstruction following the US Civil War, and the adoption of the Voting Rights Act and the US Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party made a purposeful attempt to draw poor, and working class Democrats (who had traditionally voted Democrat) into the fold.  There was a general appeal to these voter’s conservative economic views and the rampant poverty that existed throughout the South.  There was, also, a much more insidious, and covert, appeal to appeal to the racial prejudices that did not fade away following enforced desegregation of public accommodations, including schools and retail establishments.  Social norms began to evolve and overt racism declined only to be replaced by a shadowy, hidden form of racism that continued below the surface of society.

 

With the support of Southern Democrats, Barry Goldwater won the states of the Deep South in the Presidential election of 1964.  These states, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.  These states were all a part of the Confederacy during the US Civil War.  While this was not enough to propel Mr. Goldwater into the White House, they served as a foundation for which Richard Nixon would add Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, again, Confederate States during the Civil War, in order to become the 38th President of the United States.  The realignment of the Republican Party was nearly complete based on the racial prejudices that were motivated during this time.  In the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s Republicans also appealed to religious conservatives in order to increase their support which was eroding as a result of increased tolerance of racial differences.  However, there was a continuing appeal to the racial biases of poor, poorly-educated, working class white voters.

 

The rise of the Moral Majority in the very late 1970’s and into the 1980’s, was sufficient to propel Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood actor and former Governor of California, into the White House after the 1980 election.  The Moral Majority railed against women’s right, gay rights, equal pay, the minimum wage, and for a stronger military in order to prepare for a Christian Holy War against Islam.  It probably did not help that President Carter had a very lackluster Presidency noted for the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  There was an increasing anti-Muslim undercurrent present during this election which bears some similarity to today’s electoral climate.  Republican economic policies introduced throughout the 1980’s served to foster increased economic disparities.  As societal attitudes changed, the influence of the Moral Majority faded, somewhat, throughout the 1990’s and through today, although the promotion of hot button issues, including abortion and LGBT equality, has continued to bring out certain religious voting blocs during election cycles.

 

The election of President Obama in 2008 served as a catalyst for racist groups to increase their public rhetoric which, in turn, helped to fuel the establishment of the Tea Party as a significant political influence within the Republican Party.  The 2010 midterm elections saw a number of Tea Party-backed candidates elected into Congress including Senator Marco Rubio.  Senator Ted Cruz joined him in the US Senate in 2012 with significant Tea Party support.  The 2010 midterm elections began to expose the developing rifts between the Republican establishment and its base.  In light of a Federal government that appeared to be unresponsive to the desires of a Libertarian-leaning base that promoted to an extremely weak Federal government and expressing a, “States-Rights,” mantra, the Tea Party managed to increase gains in Congress during the 2012 election cycle.  Failure of Tea Party candidates to produce desired outcomes saw a bit of a pullback during the 2014 midterm elections.

 

President Obama’s election in 2008 came on the heels of the greatest economic downturn since the 1920’s and 1930’s.  While all economic groups suffered as a result of the collapse of economic powerhouses including banking, housing, and manufacturing, the recovery was most beneficial for those at the upper ends of the economic strata.  This has fueled the frustration of middle-class and working-class folks who believe government is not working for them.  The Republican Party has capitalized upon this by diverting attention away from three decades of failed economic policies and re-directing this frustration against immigrants and the poor.   Don’t blame government, we (Republicans) have been saying government cannot do anything.  It is, “The Others,” that are to blame for your economic and social status in life.  It is the gays who are responsible for the moral decay of our nation.  It is the immigrants who are responsible for low pay for your hard work.  It is the Muslims who are responsible for all terrorism.  It is not the fault of the wealthy that you are unable to advance economically and accumulate wealth, it is the fault of the poor who waste your tax dollars through food-stamp programs and, “Obama phones!!”

 

Mr. Trump, has capitalized on this message of using, “The Others” as a rallying cry for his poor and working class white supporters.  This ugly message of division, as untrue as it is, is remarkable for its effectiveness.  The American people, who should be too smart to fall for this message from a candidate such as, “The Donald” have reverted to an emotional response to fear.  This is what has become so perplexing about the Trump campaign.  Mr. Trump has not waged a political campaign on a single substantive idea.  He is not a conservative in any sense of the word.  He is not a moral man nor does he demonstrate fiscal responsibility.  And, yet, he has garnered support from evangelical Christians and a Libertarian base that supports lower taxes and smaller government.  He promises to spend more on increasing the size of our military and an incredible amount to build a wall separating the United States from Mexico.  Mr. Trump says that he will make Mexico pay for such a wall to the delight of his supporters who surely must know this is an impossibility.  He insults and threatens anyone who disagrees or opposes him.  He has insulted war heroes, journalists, women, Muslims, Jews, LGBT people, our current military personnel, first responders, and people who do not possess college degrees.  These things, alone, should have been enough to doom his campaign earlier in this election cycle.  Instead, his racially-tinged, misogynistic, bigoted, and Islamophobic, comments have drawn some of the biggest applause lines at his campaign rallies.  This is all inexplicable but for one thing.  His promotion of white, Christian, heterosexual, people as being better than others has actually increased his support among people who should know better, but are giving in to the emotions of anger, fear, and hatred.

 

While I still do not believe Mr. Trump has the ability to win a general election (I still have faith in the American people) the fact that he has used differences to successfully pit Americans against one another, and against others, is seriously troubling.  I do not believe Mr. Trump even believes much of what he is promoting, he is an entertainer, after all, but the fact that many Americans support the message lays bare a certain ugliness that is more than simply troubling.  That there exists, within Americans, animosity towards others based on their skin color, their religion, their heritage, or their gender is quite disgusting.  It would be naïve to ever think these attitudes did not exist in 2016, however, the prevalence of these attitudes is bothersome.

 

It should be noted that this concept of, “others” is not unique to the Republican Party.  The Democrats have also promoted a philosophy of others.  The difference between Democrats is that they frame this issue as one of a small group of ultra-wealthy Americans versus the rest of America.  The candidates on the Democrat side point out that the wealthiest of Americans are harming the rest of Americans.  In this battle, we are all Americans, first!!

 

Another difference between the two main political parties that has become evident to me over the past several election cycles is that the Democrat Party promotes an overall message of optimism and hope while the Republican Party markets a message of pessimism and fear.  Fear and anxiety are very powerful motivators, particularly for individuals who are insecure with themselves.  Take Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan:  “Make America Great, Again!!”  Yeah!!  Wait.  This slogan implies that America is no longer great.  I reject this suggestion completely.  The United States IS a great nation!!  It can be made even greater with the proper guidance and leadership, however, to insinuate that, at some point, America has lost her greatness is a reprehensible message to put forth!!

 

The message that must be heard by every person is that we are ALL Americans, first and foremost!!  We must reject the idea that there are, “others,” completely!!  This November, it is critical that we, as Americans, get out and vote.  Vote to reject the notion of, “others.”  Vote to KEEP America great by continuing to promote our ideals of justice, fairness, equality, and opportunity!!  YOU can keep America the greatest nation on Earth!!



On Guns and Sense

In the wake of the latest mass shooting event in San Bernardino that killed 14 and wounded 21, including at least two police officers, my Twitter and Facebook feeds lit up with calls to enact more vigorous gun control measures.  This is a recurring theme in this country.  There is a mass shooting that captures the attention of the public, there are calls for more gun control, the calls go, mostly, unheeded, and the nation moves on until the next day or next week when the next mass shooting event rivets the nation’s focus on gun violence.

 

In the aftermath of the latest shooting, which baffled investigators for nearly four days before determining this was an act of terrorism, albeit, one of the more convoluted episodes I can recall, Congress finally attempted to take action.  Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a measure that would close a loophole that currently permits suspected terrorists to legally purchase firearms in the United States.  This measure failed on a mostly party-line vote with all but one Republican voting against the measure and all but one Democrat voting in favor of the measure.  Following the vote, there was condemnation from gun-rights proponents that the measure would have stripped away due process rights from those seeking to purchase handguns.  This was the first time I had heard this suggestion made, and from my Twitter feed, this line of conversation picked up a bit of steam.

 

First off, let me say that Twitter is a difficult environment to try and have a coherent and reasonable debate with anyone on any issue, let alone one as complex and controversial as access to firearms.  Nonetheless, I engaged in conversations with several folks who supported the view that barring people on a consolidated FBI watch-list from legally procuring firearms was a violation of due process rights established under the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution.  I admit that I was baffled at this suggestion as this is the text of the amendment:

 

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” – See more at: http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment5.html#sthash.VZehsmyM.dpuf

 

The gist of the Twitter conversation is that, as the right to, “bear arms” is an enumerated right within the Bill of Rights, being, “…deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…,” means that blocking specific individuals from obtaining a firearm infringes upon their Constitutional rights.  The focus of this discussion, left unspoken by proponents of this position, is on the word, “liberty” suggesting that not being able to buy a gun deprives an individual of her or his liberty.  Now, I am not besmirching any of the participants of this line of thought as I am certain they are each patriotic Americans.  However, their line of reasoning is flawed.  Being limited to 140 characters, I was unable to effectively explain the errors associated with this line of thought.  It is clear, however, that their focus on depriving a person of, “due process” BEFORE denying a fundamental right is un-Constitutional.  This is an incorrect interpretation of due process as related to the purchase of firearms by an individual who has had their name placed on a watch-list of suspected terrorists.

 

It has been publicly recognized that this list compiled by the Department of Justice is flawed and there are names on the list that, most likely, should not appear on the list.  Other names, like at least one of the suspected shooters in San Bernardino, should probably be on this list.  Some elected US officials, children and infants, and deceased individuals names appear on this list as has been reported by numerous media outlets.  See: http://www.wired.com/2007/09/700000-name-ter/  http://dailycaller.com/2015/12/04/san-bernardino-shooting-suspect-not-on-terrorist-watch-list/

 

Critics of this list complain that due to flaws, the list should not be a bar to legally obtaining a firearm.  They state that the list is arbitrary and that people are not informed their name is on a watch-list until they attempt to engage in activity (such as attempting to board a commercial airliner) that would cause the person’s name to appear.  Prior to September 11, 2001, several federal agencies maintained lists of individuals who were subjected to heightened scrutiny.  After the horrible terrorist attacks of that day, President George W Bush signed a Presidential Directive requiring the FBI to consolidate and maintain these listings.  There are currently nearly a million names in this database.  If your name is on the list, you can expect to be subjected to enhanced scrutiny in certain circumstances (boarding a commercial aircraft, being pulled over for speeding, attempting to purchase a firearm, etc.).  A number of reasons exist why a person’s name may appear on this list.  One reason, is that you are, in fact, suspected of being a terrorist.  Often, an individual’s name will appear because it is either identical to, or similar enough to, a name used by a known or suspected terrorist.  Senator Ted Kennedy’s name appeared on the watch-list because a suspected terrorist was using, “Edward Kennedy” as an alias.  Representative John Lewis had his name on the list for the same reason as did at least one Roman Catholic nun.  The list is hardly arbitrary as you have to be, “nominated” by someone in the intelligence community in order to be evaluated, promoted, and finally, placed on the list.  Additional information on being on this list, and how to remove your name on the list may be found here:  http://people.howstuffworks.com/government-watch-list.htm

 

In any case, the folks I attempted to carry on a debate with via Twitter, are incorrect that denying or, most likely deferring, the purchase of a firearm violates their due process rights under the US Constitution.

 

What, exactly, is, “due process?”

 

As the name implies, it is a method, or process, that is owed to another person.  This may be established within the framework of organizational policies or, as used in this discussion, a requirement that is established within the framework of our nation’s founding document, the US Constitution.  Due process provides a means for an individual, or group of individuals to seek relief, or a redress, of a grievance.  The process involves those steps put into place for that appeal.  Under the US Constitution, due process, especially as recognized under the 5th and 14th Amendments is recognized as two separate entities.  There is procedural due process and there is substantive due process.  Procedural due process requires that a process for redress of potential harms be provided for the person who has suffered.  Substantive due process requires that this process be sufficient to resolve the issue at hand.

 

The folks in the Twitter universe invoking the 5th Amendment due process provisions as a reason to not block actual or suspected terrorists from obtaining firearms are actually missing the entire point about both, procedural and substantive, due process.  A number of these folks have suggested that by not providing due process BEFORE denying a fundamental right, a person’s fundamental rights have been violated.  This is not the case.  My counterargument to this flawed assertion is that while procedural due process may exist prior to a “harm” being inflicted, substantive due process begins AFTER a fundamental right has been infringed upon.  Furthermore, none of the recognized, “enumerated,” or, “fundamental” rights is absolute.

 

An example of procedural due process would be if I intended to stage a protest rally in a certain location.  It should be noted that not all speech is protected under the 1st Amendment.  For example, a person cannot yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theatre because he or she feels like causing a commotion.  Politically protected speech, though, is recognized as an essential, or fundamental, right.  However, even politically-motivated speech is subject to certain restrictions.  Namely, the time and the place of such protest may be limited for specific reasons, including safety.  If I failed to obtain the appropriate permits prior to engaging in this protest, I could be arrested and denied permission to exercise what has been recognized as a fundamental right—the right to engage in politically-protected speech.

 

Additionally, a person must be legally capable of exercising the particular right.  Would any logical person suggest that a five year-old child has the legal capacity to purchase a firearm with their allowance money?  This is why those persons who have been adjudicated as being mentally-unfit are banned from possessing firearms.  The same goes with certain convicted felons even after they have served their prison sentences.  Aren’t we denying these individuals their fundamental rights?  Yes.  Again, no right established in the US Constitution is considered absolute!

 

Now, to the point recent Twitter postings allude to:  Denying a person the legal opportunity to purchase a firearm violates their 5th Amendment due process rights.  Never mind that this right generally refers to an individual who has been formally accused of committing a serious crime.

 

If I was to enter a gun store, or any other environment that sells firearms, and attempt to purchase a firearm, I may be required to provide certain information which is supposed to be checked against a database that includes names that are on the consolidated terrorist watch-list.  Suppose my name flags as being on this list.  I will assume I would be informed this is the reason that I was being denied the opportunity to purchase said firearm(s) as this has not happened to me before.  If nothing else, I would be informed that there is a process that I may follow to address and correct any information that I believe is erroneous and what that process is for doing so.  After all, the gun seller wants to make a sale and would like me to return to purchase the gun(s) I wanted, right?

 

If the folks I was conversing with through Twitter were able to catch on to what I was pointing out, they might have a viable claim that the placement of their name on a list of suspected terrorists violated their 5th and 14th Amendment due process rights.  I would suggest that an individual might want the ability to be notified PRIOR to their name being placed on the list.  There is no process for this, however.  This is where the folks I was having a dialogue with should have their grievance.  There is a process for having your name removed from this list.

 

The process for purchasing a firearm, as I stated before, requires that a purchaser be eligible to exercise this action.  One additional point regarding the folks I was conversing with is that I am surprised that folks who claim to be so patriotic are so sympathetic to the needs and desires of actual terrorists.  Perhaps, that was a bit snarky, however, that is what the Senate vote was designed to address—the ability of terrorists who WANT to legally purchase firearms.  Why would patriotic Americans want to, even inadvertently, facilitate the efforts of a terrorist?

 



Progressive versus Conservative? Not So Fast!

Today’s political dialogue is framed in terms of progressive politics versus conservative politics.  Is this really the case?  Multiple studies and surveys have demonstrated that Americans have become more polarized, politically, over the past two decades.  This has become exceedingly apparent through the observations of the last two Congresses.  Members on both sides have been promoting legislation that the opposing side will not support in an effort to score points with their own political base.  The net effect is gridlock in Washington and in state legislatures across the country where elected leaders fail their constituents in an effort to maximize their abilities to reflect the vocal minorities of their base voters in an effort to become reelected.

While both of the main political parties, Republican and Democrat, are guilty of this, there are a number of underlying issues that need to be recognized and addressed.  While the numbers of Americans who identify as either Republican or Democrat is relatively unchanged since the 1950’s, those who identify as moderate Democrats or moderate Republicans has declined since the 1970’s.  The biggest changes of note are the loss of moderate voices in either party since the 1980’s which has intensified since 2000.  This has been much more pronounced in the Republican Party especially since the election of President Barack Obama and the rise of the Tea Party after 2008.

Two underlying factors have been associated with increased levels of political polarization throughout history.  These include immigration policy and income inequality.  These factors were in play during the first part of the 20th century and are currently at the center of our current polarization crisis.  Recent research has shown that the current polarization effect evidenced in state and federal elections is more significantly rooted in conservatives moving even further to the right on important policy issues while progressive politicians have not shifted much further to the left.  The current shift means that it is so-called conservative political positions have veered into more extreme territory while traditional progressive policy positions have not demonstrated a similar dramatic shift further to the left.

Today’s arguments are not so much a difference between progressive and conservative ideas.  The greatness of the United States has always been its embrace of change and forward advancements.  The United States, for nearly two centuries, was the powerhouse of innovation and creation in technology and knowledge.  Traditionally, both conservatives and progressives believed, and pursued change.  Conservative thought and progressive thought agreed on one defining thing.  The best days of America lay before her and each side promoted ideas and goals that would further this vision.  While the more liberal voices promoted grand, sweeping changes, conservatives were often a voice of reason, of caution, pursuing these objectives over a slower, longer timeframe.  This is one of the reasons that, for most of our history, politicians found the ability to work with their peers on the other side of the aisle to accomplish the things that would serve to benefit all Americans, and, American society.  Conservatives and progressives did not disagree so much on change, per se, but on the rate of change or how sweeping such change would be.

In the last century, Democratic and Republican politicians came together to establish Social Security, the Interstate Highway System, Medicare, Medicaid, public works projects, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Parks System, public university and college systems, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, FEMA, FDA, NIH, the defeat of Nazi Germany, the atomic bomb, the Arsenal of Democracy, the Hill-Burton Act which led to the building of hospitals to improve access to care, and many more great achievements.

Today, there are a number of voices within the Republican Party, as well as many voices outside of the party, who, while claiming to be conservative, are, in reality, regressive.  These regressive voices see America as a place whose greatest accomplishments reside in the past and would seek to return us to an era where Jim Crow laws ruled the land, where abortion was still illegal, where there was no income protection for senior citizens or the disabled, and where segregation was still completely acceptable.  These voices seek to overturn discrimination protections, access to health insurance, sensible gun regulation, and the foundation of every great society, our public education system.

Within the last decade, we have seen a surge in the number of white-supremacist groups, of so-called Patriot groups, and other hate-groups that actively challenge the legitimate authority of government agencies by threatening force and insurrection.  This weekend marked the 20th Anniversary of the deadliest homegrown terrorist act on American soil, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 Americans, including 20+ children.  These are the voices that are being reflected in the increasingly regressive candidates running as Republican candidates for elected office.

It is not a matter of progressive ideas and conservative ideas being in conflict with each other.  This is an issue of progressive, and according to many polls, mainstream, ideas clashing with a regressive ideology that renders compromise impossible.  We are nearing a dangerous tipping point in our nation’s history.  The trustworthiness of our elected officials is at its lowest point in recorded history, the favorability ratings of Congress are lower than certain types of insects, and while favorability ratings for both Democrat and Republican elected officials have fallen, the Republicans have fallen harder and faster.  Election results from the past several election cycles have consistently demonstrated that more people have voted for the Democratic, or progressive, candidate than voted for the Republican, or conservative candidate.  Gerrymandered election districts have ensured that candidates from either party cannot be readily challenged on the field of ideas in the way these districts are drawn.  This causes frustration among the electorate.

When you hear a political candidate talking about how he or she is the conservative candidate, simply know that they are most likely a regressive candidate.  True conservatives can work with progressives to get things done.  Until we balance, and reverse, this polarization that we are witnessing today, elected officials are not going to accomplish much in the way of benefiting the American people.