Other duties as assigned

Author: admin

As a Republic, we’re living in dangerous times. Unlike the past, when wars defined the danger, we’re at war with ourselves. And, it seems at moments, much of the rest of the world.

Divisions, tribalism, racism, anti-Semitism, far right and far left hate mongers, sexism, laws based on lies, ignorance and political self-service being enacted in state-after-state. Our federal judiciary is being filled with wholly unqualified but politically expedient nominees, mass media outlets spewing flat out lies and fictitious “stories” passed off as “news.”

These and more demonstrations of outrageous national conduct are threatening our freedoms, our place in world societies, our relationships with other nations and even with each other. Add in the most repeatedly proven self-dealing serial liar and least qualified president in our long history. All of this portends a future – at least a short-term future – of anger, fear, resentment and great difficulty effectively governing with such dangers.

Fearful? Yes. Dangerous? Yes. Pleasing to our enemies? Yes. All of that and more.

So, we’ve turned to a federal prosecutor. A Marine veteran with a political and judicial histories that are truly outstanding. We’ve given him the task of sorting out the criminals, crimes, lies, double-dealing, treacheries and illegal conduct that have been the sources of much of these dangers. We’ve assigned him and his team the job of rooting out perpetrators and reporting to our Congress and to us his evidence-based findings.

At about the 18 month point of his work, the investigation seems only about at the mid-point. Starting with some low-level actors and a couple dozen Russians, there have already been subpoenas, evidence of criminal activity, confessions and a few prison sentences. Enough evidence proving the digging must continue.

The most recent “crooks de jure” are Roger Stone and several of his sycophants. These hangers-on in the netherworld of the national Republican Party are really the dregs of the political “barrel.” If you look at their backgrounds – one low-level patronage job after another over the years – it’s not hard to see why they find themselves staring into the face of some jail time.

All of them – “without portfolio” – have accomplished or contributed nothing. But, they’ve made a good living trying to associate themselves with people in power. They’ve bragged about their “importance” and their “access” to political folks in high office. Stone, in particular, became a right-wing media “darling” with claims of being a “mover-and-shaker.” His bragging included Wikileaks connections, his links with Russians and his access to “halls of power” in Congress and the White House.

Now, with little evidence they ever accomplished anything of importance, Stone and company have talked – bragged – themselves into the criminal “stew” in the crucible of the Muller investigation. Their years of touting false claims of exaggerated importance may, finally, put them in little rooms where the sunshine is seen only through the bars.

The longer the Muller investigation goes, it appears we may have asked him to do something else – something even more important than just rooting out political criminal activity. “Other duties as assigned” as it were. We seem to have tasked him to clean up the mess – to “cleanse” the system of liars, cheats, double-dealers, self-servers, crooked politicians and the treachery in the White House.

If Muller’s report is published before January, it’ll likely hit the Speaker’s desk with a loud “thud” followed by silence. But, if it comes after that, there will certainly be impeachment action in that same House. Then, the next step would be in the Senate where a trial is required by law.

Would the Senate, where everything is controlled by Republicans, hold that trial? That’s far from certain. Odds at the moment, probably 50-50. Whether action would follow would most likely hinge on who’s identified by Mueller as guilty of wrongdoing, what that wrongdoing was, what damage has been done, what that damage consists of and whether there are a lot of “co-conspirator #1″ citations.

The Roger Stones of the world are just grist left on the mill floor. Their only use in what Muller is doing is to be rungs on the ladder to the next level of proven criminality.

There will be a report. A conclusion. A document of evidence detailing the cancer in our recent political history. It will go to Congress. But, it will also go to us. The affected. We must access it, read it carefully and thoroughly digest the details for ourselves.

Whether Congress will act is still an open question. But, as a society, we must act on the results. We cannot allow that document to be relegated to some musty shelf in the Library of Congress.

We did a little housecleaning in November. Muller’s work could prove a very useful voter’s guide for voters for years to come. And more cleaning.

Why

Author: admin

Here are a couple of questions for you. Name the capitol of Afghanistan. Got it? What’s the answer? Here’s the second. Name two other cities. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Most people can’t name the capitol. Kabul. No one I know can name two other cities. And I’ve asked a few. Herat and Kandahar are a couple. There are many more.

Yet, young Americans have been fighting and dying there for 17 years. Seventeen years! And the vast majority of us couldn’t find the place on a map and know next to nothing about the nation or its people.

We have about 16,000 military there at the moment – down from 100,000 a couple of years ago. Our young people have died there for 17 years. The Pentagon won’t say how many. Thousands and thousands of wounded? Same non-response.

The financial cost to we taxpayers? Well, Randall Shriver is the top guy for the Defense Department in Asia. His numbers? About $5-billion a year for Afghan forces. Another $13-billion every 12 months for the U.S. military. And about $780-million more for “economic aid.” Whatever the hell that is.

When you ring up the total, adding what the military calls “miscellaneous costs,” we shelled out – in just the last year – $45-billion. Give or take a million or two. Put another way, we’ve been spending about $170-million a day!

Why? What are we doing there? To what end? To what goal? What will “peace” look like? The “peace” that seemingly will never come. How many more young Americans will have to die or be permanently scarred before “victory?” How many more trillions of dollars are we willing to throw down that Asian rat hole? This is the longest war our nation has ever fought. Why do we continue?

In recent months, an ambulance bomb killed 95 civilians. Fifty more killed at a wedding. More than 50 clerics have died ina single attack. Hundreds of other terrorist killings. And, at least a dozen American military murdered by Afghans wearing uniforms we gave them, using our rifles we taught them how to shoot. All just this year.

Afghans – who’ve been at war since the first one stood upright many centuries ago – wouldn’t know peace if it suddenly descended on them. They’ve been at war with each other – and one nation or another – since their inception. I can’t think of another country occupied more often by nation-after-invading-nation. And not one – not even one – left the soil of Afghanistan in victory and with honor.
Even our “Commander-In Chief” hasn’t dared venture there in two years in office. Nor, incidentally – to his shame – has he visited any of the other dozens of war zones where our troops are under fire.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is one politician who complains about our seemingly endless involvement in that far-off sinkhole. He notes every couple of years, one U.S. administration after another claims “a corner is being turned” and “the end is in sight.” Then he lists the corruption, government dysfunction and the repeated failures of the Afghan security forces.

The fact of the matter is, Merkley says, U.S. hopes of using military force to compel the Taliban to reach a political settlement are – and have been for years – unrealistic. He notes the Taliban now controls more territory than it did in 2001.

Sen. Rand Paul, also a vocal critic, says “Tens of billions are being thrown down the hatch in Afghanistan” and he calls it “an impossible situation for which there is no hope.”

Other congressional voices mutter and complain. But, as a body, having war-making and war-ending powers, there’s absolutely no action to put an end to the tragic waste. In a heartbeat, Congress could shut off the money spigot. There’s never been a congressional declaration of war for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or any other of the dozens of hot spots where we’re spending lives and treasure.

Congress, alone, we’re told, could end all of it by denying spending. Trump could holler, threaten and lie till he chokes, but he doesn’t control spending. The whole sad, tragic and tremendously costly “war” could be stopped. And, as so many other nations have done, we could get the hell out of there.

Imagine what we could have done for our infrastructure, our public education system, needs of our veterans, our real national defense, repairing our urgent environmental problems, health care, homelessness and so much more with the trillions we’ve wasted in undeclared wars.

Again, no voice has described “victory” in Afghanistan. Not one. Because there is none. There never has been. There never will be.

Here’s another question for you. Would you want your son or daughter on some Afghanistan battlefield?

Why can’t we learn? Why?

Why

Author: admin

Here are a couple of questions for you. Name the capitol of Afghanistan. Got it? What’s the answer? Here’s the second. Name two other cities. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Most people can’t name the capitol. Kabul. No one I know can name two other cities. And I’ve asked a few. Herat and Kandahar are a couple. There are many more.

Yet, young Americans have been fighting and dying there for 17 years. Seventeen years! And the vast majority of us couldn’t find the place on a map and know next to nothing about the nation or its people.

We have about 16,000 military there at the moment – down from 100,000 a couple of years ago. Our young people have died there for 17 years. The Pentagon won’t say how many. Thousands and thousands of wounded? Same non-response.

The financial cost to we taxpayers? Well, Randall Shriver is the top guy for the Defense Department in Asia. His numbers? About $5-billion a year for Afghan forces. Another $13-billion every 12 months for the U.S. military. And about $780-million more for “economic aid.” Whatever the hell that is.

When you ring up the total, adding what the military calls “miscellaneous costs,” we shelled out – in just the last year – $45-billion. Give or take a million or two. Put another way, we’ve been spending about $170-million a day!

Why? What are we doing there? To what end? To what goal? What will “peace” look like? The “peace” that seemingly will never come. How many more young Americans will have to die or be permanently scarred before “victory?” How many more trillions of dollars are we willing to throw down that Asian rat hole? This is the longest war our nation has ever fought. Why do we continue?

In recent months, an ambulance bomb killed 95 civilians. Fifty more killed at a wedding. More than 50 clerics have died ina single attack. Hundreds of other terrorist killings. And, at least a dozen American military murdered by Afghans wearing uniforms we gave them, using our rifles we taught them how to shoot. All just this year.

Afghans – who’ve been at war since the first one stood upright many centuries ago – wouldn’t know peace if it suddenly descended on them. They’ve been at war with each other – and one nation or another – since their inception. I can’t think of another country occupied more often by nation-after-invading-nation. And not one – not even one – left the soil of Afghanistan in victory and with honor.
Even our “Commander-In Chief” hasn’t dared venture there in two years in office. Nor, incidentally – to his shame – has he visited any of the other dozens of war zones where our troops are under fire.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is one politician who complains about our seemingly endless involvement in that far-off sinkhole. He notes every couple of years, one U.S. administration after another claims “a corner is being turned” and “the end is in sight.” Then he lists the corruption, government dysfunction and the repeated failures of the Afghan security forces.

The fact of the matter is, Merkley says, U.S. hopes of using military force to compel the Taliban to reach a political settlement are – and have been for years – unrealistic. He notes the Taliban now controls more territory than it did in 2001.

Sen. Rand Paul, also a vocal critic, says “Tens of billions are being thrown down the hatch in Afghanistan” and he calls it “an impossible situation for which there is no hope.”

Other congressional voices mutter and complain. But, as a body, having war-making and war-ending powers, there’s absolutely no action to put an end to the tragic waste. In a heartbeat, Congress could shut off the money spigot. There’s never been a congressional declaration of war for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or any other of the dozens of hot spots where we’re spending lives and treasure.

Congress, alone, we’re told, could end all of it by denying spending. Trump could holler, threaten and lie till he chokes, but he doesn’t control spending. The whole sad, tragic and tremendously costly “war” could be stopped. And, as so many other nations have done, we could get the hell out of there.

Imagine what we could have done for our infrastructure, our public education system, needs of our veterans, our real national defense, repairing our urgent environmental problems, health care, homelessness and so much more with the trillions we’ve wasted in undeclared wars.

Again, no voice has described “victory” in Afghanistan. Not one. Because there is none. There never has been. There never will be.

Here’s another question for you. Would you want your son or daughter on some Afghanistan battlefield?

Why can’t we learn? Why?

P-I-N it

Author: admin

Our recent national election contained the most outright, in-your-face cheating and lying of any in my lifetime. Just flat-out scandalous and, at times, illegal behavior. We’ll be living with the after effects for a long, long time. But, it may be just the precursor of the next one. And the next. And the next.

In state after state, the Republican Party – or what’s left of it – was the prime ruinous sponsor and leading miscreant. There may have been some Democrats flouting ethics and laws in some places. But, overwhelmingly, Republicans outdid themselves in despicable, lying behavior. Some are still at it.

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in our neighborhood looked straight at the TV camera in her commercials and told of the times she had voted to “protect pre-existing conditions for all Arizonans.” But, her votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, more than 40 of them, were to kill ACA (Obamacare) and some specifically to erase pre-existing conditions. She lost by less than two-percent. Nearly half of all voters apparently believed her.

That’s one case. Across the country, thousands of misleading, false or outright bogus claims and gross behavior. Names like Scott, Kemp, DeSantis, Anderson, Rohrabacher, Hunter, Akin, Kobach, and many more tried every lying trick-in-the-book. Some still are.

Many GOP efforts were to disenfranchise voters – make getting to the polls (especially in Dodge City, Kansas) nearly impossible. Or, legislating Native Americans out of the process. Voting machines with no power cord or were inoperable when installed. Some switching votes electronically. Overseers who were candidates themselves rigging outcomes. (Kemp and Kobach.)

Republican gerrymandering, in some places, meant a Democrat had get more than 60-percent to win. (S. Carolina and Alabama.)

Candidates are who they are. Some qualified. Some not. Some honest. Some not. Too many of the latter – not enough of the former. With the current lack of trust in both national parties, getting better, more qualified people to run is nearly impossible. That’s got to be a priority in 2020.

But, it’s gerrymandering and blocking voters that’s so heinous. Republicans, in many legislatures, used the 2000 census to twist, splice and draw voting districts to their benefit. Now, Democrats say, if they’re in the majority in 2020, they’ll be more honest. I’d like to believe that. But, I don’t. The most accurate description of political power I’ve ever been told was “When they’re in power, they do it to you; when you’re in power, you do it to them.” From an Idaho Democrat.

Several states blocked registered voters – especially Black, Hispanic, Native American – by all sorts of contrived schemes. More than any other factor, that needs to be addressed.

Oregon, in so many instances a leader in creative thinking, has some excellent approaches. One is “motor voter” registration. Register your vehicle and you’re automatically registered to vote. Parties assigned randomly. If you don’t like the assignment, change it. It’ll take several generations to reach 100-percent but, eventually, all Oregonians will be registered voter.

Also, as in Oregon and several other states, voting by mail should be federal law. I realize there are still people who like to go to a polling place. I’m one. I always felt a bit prouder when the little gray-haired lady announced for all to hear, “Barrett Rainey has voted.” But, like so many other things, times have changed. Voting by mail is one of those changes. There are some wrinkles to work out but they’re not insurmountable.

Do away with signatures on ballots. Assign each voter a PIN – personal identification number. Banks worldwide use ‘em. All credit card outfits use ‘em. They know within seconds when one of us hundreds of millions of users buys lunch anywhere in the world. Instead of laboriously checking signature authenticity – which in my case is impossible – check the PIN by high-speed scanner. Cut down or eliminate recounts.

Use a standardized national ballot format. Leave flexibility for states to enter necessary information. But, format all the same. In Florida, a U.S. Senate seat hinges on the way one county laid out its ballot with that race separated from all the others. Exit polling shows some people didn’t see it.

Require all counting to be done electronically. Standardize machines.

There are many more ideas out there. But, the plain fact is, we can’t keep doing things as we are. We can’t do much about political parties or individuals who want to lie, cheat, block and steal. But, no large corporation would run a national business the way we run the most important element of our democracy: voting.

We need our ballots handled accurately and treated with the certainty that our most basic, guaranteed freedom requires. Leaving it to political parties is not the best way to assure that.

Many things must be changed. Updated and streamlined. One of those things seems a natural: “P-I-N it.”

A too-slim majority

Author: admin

We’ve been hearing for a couple of years now that our country is “divided,” “broken,” “fractured,” “splintered” and that current society is “tribal.”

All of those descriptions seem mostly accurate. Signs of strain, fractured will and stress are everywhere.

The most recent evidence is in many of the outcomes of our recent national elections. While some candidates and ballot issues were decided by solid majorities – Idaho’s Governor and Medicaid expansion for example – such one-sided results were rare.

I didn’t look at all national races, but in the 63 I did examine, 57 were decided by less that three-percent – many by tenths of a point. Yes, Democrats picked up the U.S. House. They needed 23 wins. They got 30. In a body of 435, hardly a landslide. If a few don’t follow caucus instructions on whatever the vote is about on any given day, that majority can evaporate. The new majority “whip” is going to be kept busy.

Less than a one point separation is likely to give Florida a Republican governor and, less than two-points, a senator. Same margains in Texas with Cruz over O’Rourke. Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Nevada and more had Senate and House victories by two and three points. Or less. Many state races and ballot issues were squeakers. Arizona is still counting Senate votes. No winner in Alabama Governor yet, either.

“Well, Rainey, a win is still a win,” you say. “What’s the matter with you?”

I see several “matters.”

For one, like Jack Kennedy faced, when one of these squeaker winners walks down the street, that person has to realize nearly one of every two people passing by voted against her/him. So much for a mandate. So much for real constituent support.

Another example. Legislating. If your majority in a congressional or legislative body is around one-percent or so, keeping your “horses” going in the same direction on significant issues is very difficult. Especially issues of conscience. Think Supreme Court candidates, budgeting or abortion rights. Without the heft of a solid majority, such issues are often near-impossible to settle.

There are many folks still saying we must stop speaking ill of each other – must stop the arguing and fighting – must return to a “kinder, gentler time.” Must “come together.” “Love your enemy” and all that.

It seems to me we’ve gone too far down the national road of vitriol, hate and division for any of that to be effective. We’ve got a serial liar president with millions of supporters who say “Sure, he lies, but he says what’s on his mind, he’s not a politician and I like that.” When what’s “on his mind” is constant lying about everything, how do you reach those people?

Another example. During exit polling in Florida, the question CNN put to voters, regardless of party affiliation – or none – was “Which national party do you want controlling Congress?” The answer? Dead even at 49% for each. How do you create effective governance out of that?

Other exit interviews on just about any issue or candidate there were many similar near-tie responses, regardless of what region of the country was involved. If you take nearly any national issue, you’ll find just about a 50-50 split. A few choruses of “Kum-ba-yah” will not heal our coast-to-coast ills.

Seems to me we’re in a situation similar to what Quakers in this country faced during the Civil War. They made gallant efforts to stick to their pacifist culture and stay out of the fighting for a long time. But, eventually, many of them realized they’d lose that culture and all they had if they didn’t take up arms. So, many of them did. They joined up and helped overpower the enemy.
(http://ramwebs.wcupa.edu/jones/his480/reports/civilwar.html)

We’re now faced with significant threats to all our culture. To our peace and tranquility. To our chosen way of life. Even to preserving the Republic.

The sources of those threats are many. Politicians more concerned with continued public-trough employment than concerns constituents face. A political party using lies and terrible tactics – some illegal – to gain or keep control in Congress and many states. Millions of Americans divorced from reality by sick rightwing media and “consultant” forces pounding away in a closed environment of lies and half-truths. Millions of citizen naysayers believing their willful ignorance is as good as your factual reality.

There were way too many razor-thin victories in our last election – far too many candidates elected by hundredths-of-a- point to make real progress. The serious – some terrible – issues we face as a country can’t muster a significant majority to solve. The outcome – and the numbers – prove it.

The time for peaceful solutions seems over. It may take a national force-of-will to form the majority needed to get back on the right path. Force-of-will and a few more elections.

Like those Quakers, we may have to join a fight we really don’t want to.

After Tuesday, what?

Author: admin

Well, here we are. One day out from exercising our voting franchise. At least by those who desire to do so. Twenty-four hours from finding out how things shake out politically across the country.

No more polling on this one. No more talking heads with their “best guesses” about what you and I want our nation’s governance to be for the next two years. Back to a media resurrecting regular commercials and public service announcements while corporate accountants total up the windfall from the political ad huckstering.

Yep, we’re back to normal. Not!

Like so many other thoughtful folks, I’ve no idea what normal is now or what it will be in the future. “Normal” isn’t anymore. It’s been abolished by the political catastrophe of the last couple of years. It’s been erased from our lives by the cacophony of lies, betrayal of the public trust, demagoguery on a scale we’ve never seen in our political affairs, a spineless Congress ignoring the human cost of a presidency of false witness and the widespread national racism more prominent now than ever.

What the Hell is normal now? What will it be after our votes are counted? What will the new political and societal landscapes look like on Wednesday?

Many of us have already voted – in person or by mail. For us, these last weeks have been filled with candidate noise and expensive messaging wasted at our house because we’d already made our decisions. In fact, I haven’t talked to anyone for months who hadn’t already decided who and what to vote for.

The danger in tomorrow’s voting is the widespread ignorance of candidates, issues and even process by millions of folk living under the Trump spell. They know what they know but, for many, they have no idea what they don’t know. They’ve swallowed a constant diet of lies, half-truths and fantasies cooked up by Trump and their favorite rightwing media. They listen to no one who’s messages are more grounded in reality and fact.

Example: The other night, I watched an interview of a woman in her 70’s. Cherub face, big smile. Probably someone’s kindly grandma. Atop her silver hair was a stovepipe hat in red, white and blue with small America flags on either side. She was asked if she still supported Trump.

“Oh, yes,” she said excitedly. “He’s trying to protect us from all those criminals who want to cross our borders. People with MS-13 tattoos on their arms. They’ve got guns and other weapons. The President is trying his best to protect us.”

Sweet, she may be. But, absolutely divorced from the reality of the thousands of families fleeing death and violence in search of unknown and uncertain futures. Futures that might mean jails, new forms of violence and even separation. Those “criminals.”

The reporter didn’t try to correct her. Why should she? The lady was absolutely sure of her “facts.”

Trump is believed to have some 30-million supporters – many like Granny. Like the rest of us, many of them will be voting tomorrow, too. They’ll mark their ballots with certainty as we all do. They’ll want their voices heard as we all do. But, they’ll do that armed with their own “facts” created for them by Trump and the far right media barrage.

They’ll vote under the influence of a verbal “stew” of lies, racism, anti-Semitism, fear of the unknown and false prophesies. The fruit of their “reality” will go into the same universal ballot box into which we cast votes based on our version of reality. Their vote will have equal weight in the outcome. One ballot cast, we hope, informed. The other, it appears, deformed. But, equal.

So, back to the question: what will our future look like? Out of that mixture of fact versus “facts,” what will be the outcome? What will be our direction? What will be the new normal?

We’ll have the picture tomorrow. I pray it’ll be reality-based.

It won’t be over

Author: admin

Historically, elections are supposed to settle things. Winners celebrate and get on with life. Losers pay the bills and put away their signs. Until next time. But, this one’s different.

This country has not experienced an election like this in my long lifetime. When it’s over, it won’t be over. Bitterness, tribalism, deep racial and social divisions will continue. In Congress and in our individual lives.

Trump’s not on the ballot, they say. But he is. The continual chaos he’s caused in our national governance is present in nearly every race. His gross, demeaning and lying conduct of his tenure can be found in all manner of places.

The most obvious, of course, will be the new balance of power in the Congress. A reconstituted Congress that’s bowed to his will for two years may – may – find a raised voice of authority with many new members. Still, we’ll see further divisions. Democrats seem headed to the majority in the House. But, the Senate will probably continue Republican dominance, though only by a vote or two. Gridlock.

Appropriations legislation, for instance, must start in the House. So, a Democrat majority will muscle through its figures and a GOP majority in the Senate will bury ‘em. Impeaching of the President, if such occurs, must start in the House. If such a move is successful, the Senate is where the subsequent trial takes place. Can you see McConnell allowing that to happen?

Also, in the House, win or lose, Speaker Ryan will be gone. If Republicans keep the majority, tell me who the next Speaker will be. No one can answer that. And GOP party leadership? There are no obvious candidates and the screwed up “Freedom Caucus” will fight anyone of moderate stripe. It’ll be a bloodbath whether the GOP is dominant or not.

Current Democrat leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Check Schumer, are sure to be challenged. Splits in the party which, heretofore have been lightly plastered over, will become deeper and more public. The present Dem caucus is fairly centrist. But, the left is likely to make some electoral gains which could shift the balance. There will be more women in the mix. New voices for change.

In state races, again, the presence of Trump and divisions are in both parties from coast-to-coast. The current Independent
Party governor of Alaska, for example, has quit his campaign, endorsing the Democrat saying the Republican is too extreme and his election would not be in the state’s “best interests.”

In several federal and states races, current officeholders – some charged with felonies or even convicted of felonies – are on ballots trying to get back to the public trough. Even some awaiting trial!

Arizona’s Senate race is a catfight and, whomever wins, the state loses. The qualifications bar has been set so low you’ve got to dig to find it. One says the other is “guilty of treason” and the other says her opponent “lies about everything.” Some choice.

Republicans in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, North Dakota and South Carolina are disenfranchising minority voters – literally – by the busload. Hundreds of thousands. Should their despicable efforts prevail, all residents of those states will pay millions of tax dollars in sure-to-come court challenges. Political and racial divisions will further divide and weaken state and local governments.

It’s fair to say that many national and state divisions existed pre-Trump. Some for generations. Even he can’t be blamed for every woe. But, it’s also fair to say he’s used sledgehammers – verbal, political and otherwise – to divide, split, inflame, vilify and reap chaos on this nation. The effects of his manic presidency can be found on the ballots in state after state.

Barring full impeachment, Trump will be around for two more years. He’ll continue to assault public institutions, relentlessly campaign for adoring crowds who haven’t discovered his inevitable self-destructive and amoral ways. He’ll continue his efforts to undermine the entire Federal judicial system. There’ll be more threats against people who oppose him. His ignorance of politics, history and governance won’t change. His in-your-face profiteering from his high office will continue.

No, this election won’t be over when it’s over. Voters may make some much-needed changes in the makeup of Congress. They may have their voices more clearly heard by a Congress that’s turned its back on overwhelming public choices on issues. We might even see a few converts among the re-elected miscreants.

Regardless of voter feelings and demands, November 7, 2018, will likely look a whole lot like November 5th. The only sense of satisfaction we may get from voting is that we tried to make ourselves heard and were successful in a few places.

But, it will be far from over.

Because we can

Author: admin

“Before we work on artificial intelligence,
why don’t we do something about natural stupidity?

This bit of doggerel appeared on the old computer machine the other day and got me thinking some serious thoughts. Thoughts like, just because new tools of our technologically-driven world allow us to do things not previously possible, should we?

After some considerable thought, my answer is, “No. Not always.”

While humankind traditionally embraces discovery and new ways of living, in some cases, we’ve found ourselves with the ability to “do” without asking “Now that we can, should we?” “Do we understand what we’re doing?”

The current ability to keep brain-dead and other near-terminal bodies alive is one such instance in which technology has made something possible but we’ve not yet developed solid ethics to answer the question “Should we?

Or, we can clone animals. This naturally leads to the query, “What about humans?” To which we should immediately further ask, “Should we?”

Scientists at M-I-T have disclosed they’ve bred lab rats that age in reverse! Now, we’ll see public clamor to try it on humans. Is someone – anyone – going to quickly and loudly ask “Should we?”

Not many folks remember Josef Mengele – Doctor Mengele. He was assigned to the Auschwitz prison camp in 1942, and contributed to the deaths of millions of Jews. But, his real Nazi “fame” came from his ghastly experiments to develop a “master race.” Pictures, published after World War II, showed the depth of depravity of his “work.” It’s still impossible to understand why someone – anyone – would have submitted thousands to such brutality.

Mengele told the Nazi hierarchy he could create the “master race” through medically inhumane means. But no one asked, “Should we?”

Extreme case? Yes. Definitely. But it brutally teaches us that we – as humans – are capable of trekking off into uncharted domains without considering necessary ethics to deal with such issues and without asking “Should we?

Now, we’re faced with “artificial intelligence.” Developers are boldly touting what it will do for us – how it will change our lives for the better – how it will advance our “civilization.”

As a nation – as a world – we should just as loudly be asking “Yes, we can, but should we?” I’ve not heard of anyone or any serious intellectual body raising the issue of developing concomitant ethics – rules – standards – limitations – before we dash headlong into this new “computerized world.”

A.I. is not something to necessarily be afraid of. But, the capabilities of this astounding science are so immense we need to figure out what we’re going to do with it – how we’re going to use it – what aspects of it we should pursue – what limitations (and how many and for what) we should adopt.

In a very real sense, A.I. amounts to humans turning over many “duties” that have traditionally been our responsibilities – our tasks – our ways of living – to inanimate, but very intelligent, machines.

Is anyone truly asking which responsibilities, which tasks, which real world ethics we should apply? Is anyone looking at limitations – what failsafe protections we need to develop before we rush into this new ”Utopia?”

I don’t hang around the M-I-T labs on a regular basis. Nor am I on mailing lists of other major research institutions. So, some of what’s happening in these “lofty towers” may be getting past me.

But, I’d like to think that, as we consider what to do with this new science, someone – many someone’s – are toiling with the simple but world-changing question: “We can, but should we?”

A Trump positive

Author: admin

Never thought the day would come – at least in this lifetime – I’d give Donald Trump credit for anything positive. Just seemed absolutely impossible. But, while that “credit” is awfully tangential, it’s his nonetheless.

Hold that thought. A bit of background is required.

The Governor of Connecticut Legislature has signed into law legislation allowing that state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). A mouthful, to be sure. But, it’s important.

NPVIC was formed several years ago to make an end run around existing federal law in the way the Electoral College works. Presently, each state has the same number of College votes as it does members of Congress. Idaho, for example, has four – two Representatives and two Senators. Oregon has seven; Washington 12, California 55, Texas 38 and so on.

Currently, if a presidential candidate amasses an Electoral College vote total 270 in several large states, the popular vote winner could lose. In reality, we’d have a minority president. Trump-Clinton. Bush-Gore.

What the Compact represents is states changing their own laws so the popular vote winner is the real winner in future presidential elections. If the Compact can reach the 270 vote total – the same Electoral College number a presidential candidate has to get to win now – future races would go to the popular vote victor. Minus considerable legal challenges to that end run.

With the addition of Connecticut, the Compact currently has 172 electoral votes coming from California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and D.C.. So, the hunt is on for a total of 98 more. A few “biggies” like Ohio (18), Texas (38), Michigan (16) and Florida (29) could put things “over-the-top.”

While there many folk – corporate and political – who don’t want to change – and many reasons (or excuses) for not doing so – the one indisputable argument on the table is simple: all other elections – for anything – are decided by the majority of the most votes cast. Period. The presidency is the only contest – from dog catcher to Congress – in which the majority can – as we’ve seen recently – lose the race.

“What’s that got to do with giving credit to Trump,” you ask?

Since the 2016 election, according to Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, more states are asking for information about the Compact and more research is being done on how to draft legislation.

As Connecticut State Rep. Mathew Lesser put it in debate, “The Trump victory appears to have given the issue some added momentum.”

Thanks, Donny! You’ve been a big help.
 

For years, pollsters have found a majority of Americans have little trust in their national media. In many instances, the positive percentages of those questioned about fairness, accuracy and impartiality have hovered below 30-percent or so. I’m not willing to accept those numbers at face value.

One reason for my scepticism is pollsters often don’t define the word “media” before asking their questions. Consider some of the larger outfits in that business – Gallup, Pew, etc. Many of their queries are about media “in general” which leaves responses open to interpretation. On occasion, if they specify which media, further questioning often avoids other sources – mass media, radio, TV, print or “social media.”

And therein lies one reason for my distrust of most such surveys. What about “social” media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like? Given the high percentages of folks – especially those age 40 and under – who get most of their information from such, are those sources broken out from print and broadcast media in polling? Seldom.

Four important factors to consider here. First, nearly none of what appears in “social” media is edited for accuracy, sourcing or even truth. There are no checks on whether the information is reliable. Given the huge number of people who have no idea how businesses operate – or even how their own government functions – you’re on your own when it comes to whether you believe what’s been read or told. That can, in turn, affect how a person sees all media.

Second, if pollsters don’t specifically breakout which media is being asked about – which, in my checking, is all too often the case – responses will be skewed. Comparing a Facebook post to The Washington Post makes responses invalid. One is checked, cross-checked and heavily edited. The other is totally unedited, unchecked and, often, a bogus source.

Third, many folks tend to gravitate to media that agree with their viewpoints because they reinforce what they already believe. They routinely avoid the ones that don’t. For those doing that consistently, they’re not exposed to new or different facts and, thus, cling to information that may be comfortable but also old or wrong. People who rely on Fox, for example, are fed a steady diet of disinformation – much of it edited to skew things to false “facts.”

Finally, another factor skewing polling is the issue of what the word “news” means to both the pollster and the “pollee.” Unless there’s some major disaster or important world event at the moment, CNN, MSNBC and Fox have little to no news after 4pm MST. It’s mostly opinion mixed with a few facts. Much of it is reporters talking to reporters or others favorable to the networks point-of-view. It’s not “news.” But, pollsters don’t always differentiate news from opinion in their questions. So, if the responder doesn’t like a certain opinion source, is that person conflating opinion with news?

I’m certainly not opposed to polling. Far from it. But, before taking results at face value, one needs to know how the question is asked and if questioner and responder are clear on the meaning of terms they’re using.

I think most of us have a higher trust of national media than a lot of polls indicate. But that’s just my opinion. Certainly not news. Just so we’re clear.