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If Not Now, When?

The night of October 1, 2017 was marred by the latest and largest mass murder producing shooting spree conducted by one individual in modern American history at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. Almost three weeks have passed between that horrific event and the composition of this essay. One of the first statements made by many in the wake of such a tragedy (after the obligatory spouting of platitudes promising prayer for families of the victims and the sharing of their grief) is usually something to the effect that talk of preventing similar incidents in the future is premature. Following in this pattern, the same thing has happened this time. Unlike the last time, the Trump White House was one of the early dispensers of such nonsense.

Since I began writing this blog over five years ago, there have been numerous instances of such events occurring in such disparate locations as public schools, university campuses, movie theaters, supermarkets, baseball parks, churches, holiday parties and now an outdoor concert. Infrequently, such events are terrorist attacks perpetrated by religious zealots, white supremacists and others that end up being lumped into excuses to crack down on radical foreign terrorists. Other times, calls for improved mental health care come to the fore. In this instance, since the perpetrator was a lone individual with no record of problems involving the legal system, no marked political or religious extremism, no online manifesto or suicide note to give us a clue as to his state of mind at the time, we may never know what precipitated this particular massacre.

Longtime advocates of gun control, along with newly converted folks who are often friends and family of victims or survivors of such attacks themselves, naturally seek to urge passage of state, local or national legislation aimed at actually doing something that will actually prevent such acts in the future. Unfortunately, state legislatures and the US Congress are heavily populated by elected officials who are either beholden to the NRA and other groups aligned with the gun manufactures and the other merchants of death or are so threatened by the prospect of having those groups spend money to destroy the political career of anyone voting to restrict their ownership in any way that such concrete legislation is extremely difficult to pass.

The Las Vegas massacre is noteworthy in many ways. The perpetrator, Stephen Paddock, left behind few clues as to the reasoning that went behind the actions he took prior to his attack and subsequent suicide. He did, however, leave behind a hotel room with an arsenal of 23  weapons and ammunition, including guns equipped with gadgetry capable of mimicking fully automatic military assault weapons. A search of his home revealed yet more guns, ammunition and explosives. Apparently,nothing in the man’s possession was acquired or possessed illegally in Nevada. Is there any reason I am unaware of that any one individual needs to possess that kind of firepower? Why are these bump stocks and similar devices even legal, when basically the sole purpose for their existence is to circumvent the federal ban on private ownership of fully automatic weapons with a product that for all intents and purposes serves the same function?

The calls for taking time to thoroughly debate and consider options rather than immediately passing restrictive legislation soon after one of these attacks is nothing other than a tried and true method than the gun lobby has been using for many years to delay and deflect constituent outrage and the terror thus produced for long enough for the furor to die down with minimal or no action until the next attack starts the whole process over again. In the meantime, the gun lobby celebrates increased sales by fear mongering folks into stocking up before the government bans the weapons or makes significant obstacles to keep them out of the hands of new owners likely to use them to kill in the future. There have been laws proposed and bills submitted to deal with this issue in the current Congress, but with GOP dominance in that body and the media coverage already subsiding, expect the issue to die down again just as it did after Gabby Giffords was shot, or the Aurora movie theater was shot up or the GOP baseball team was attacked or Sandy Hill saw its massacre.

Guns don’t kill – people do. But people with guns can kill many more people more quickly than the same people with knives or even ordinary hunting rifles or the sort of handgun that a person might be more likely to use in self-defense than aa AR-15, AK or some other rapid-fire weapon with a high capacity ammunition clip. Legislation trying to nibble away at the edges of the problem has proven ineffective. Those blaming the mental health care industry are strangely silent when it comes to trying to do something to fix that. Hell, they don’t even think people should get ordinary health care as a human right.

When a natural disaster happens, who comes out and says lets be patient, help the victims and not worry a bit about taking further steps in the aftermath to prevent or alleviate the consequences of future occurrences of the same nature? Save your prayers and seemingly well-intentioned platitudes and false expressions of sympathy that ultimately become meaningless due to a failure to even try to arrive at a solution in this country that has been seen in other countries to actually prevent murders without resulting in authoritarian dictatorships. Your or anyone else’s right to own and bear arms does not now nor ever did overrule my right to life and liberty without fear of having someone start spreading gunfire in the mall I’m shopping in or at my son’s school or any number of other places still vulnerable to such attacks. We can never totally eliminate indiscriminate murder of innocent people, but we certainly don’t need to keep making it easier to do on an ever-larger scale by appeasing the greed of the gun manufacturers and the gun nut faction of the NRA.

We need to get off this treadmill of inaction and make changes to our gun laws to alleviate the opportunities for such massacres to take place. We certainly need to oppose the even more radical deregulation of firearms being attempted at both state and federal government levels, such as legalization of silencers, the proliferation of open carry laws and the attempt to force all states to accept concealed carry permits from all other states. The increase in laws mandating that guns be allowed into such places as college campuses and other major public areas do much more to endanger public safety than enhance it. People proposing such legislation should be voted out of office and their campaign contributions refused on that basis. We need fewer, not more, guns in this country. Suicides, accidental shootings and heat of the moment killings (the kind that used to be settled non-fatally – like in bar fights) would definitely diminish if we got away from this notion that everybody needs to carry a gun 24/7.

We need to stop playing the game of the pro-gun lobby and keep the heat on our legislators to more adequately regulate firearms in this country. It’s a sad day when freedom to have the capacity to kill people for little or no reason is seen as more vital to our society than a free press or the right to peacefully protest. The direction we are moving in this regard needs to be reversed as soon as possible. Those favoring increased regulation of guns outnumber those advocating the NRA position on these issues by a large margin, just as the popularity of freedom of speech and the right for peaceful protest far exceeds the opinions President Trump has expressed in his ominous Tweet storms on those topics.

Further Suggested Readings:

Jimmy Kimmel Breaks Down in Tears During Moving Plea for Gun Control

Seth Meyers Dares Republicans in Congress Following Las Vegas Massacre

Fight Against Gun Violence and Demand More Aid for Puerto Rico

Dem. Rep on gun control: ‘If not now, when?’

The gun lobby: See how much your representative gets

Just three percent of adults own half of America’s guns

Mass Shootings: the Military-Entertainment Complex’s Culture of Violence Turns Deadly

The Congress Members Receiving the Most N.R.A. Funding

The GOP’s silence insults the dead

The Disunited States of American Gun Control

The NRA’s power: By the numbers

After Being Shot, Rep. Steve Scalise Still Opposes More Gun Control

Sen. Ed Markey Says Massachusetts Has Become ‘the NRA’s Worst Nightmare’

After deadly mass shooting, White House says it’s "premature" to discuss guns

We Need More Than ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ After Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Massacre

The NRA’s Latest Terrorist Attack on U.S. Soil

Why the majority doesn’t rule on guns

Mass Shootings: the Military-Entertainment Complex’s Culture of Violence Turns Deadly

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I Will Bear True Faith and Allegiance: Patriotism and Protest

Our current President’s attempts at silencing dissent by impugning the protesters’ patriotism or support for service members’ sacrifices on our behalf are mistaken and seem meant to distract us from other matters he is dealing with poorly. The individuals who are participating in and who originated these protests are no less patriotic or supportive than he is. Many would argue their willingness to face his wrath to continue pointing out injustice in our society and working to fix them make them even more patriotic and supportive of their fellow human beings than he has ever been. – RJC

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Over the past month I have been watching and occasionally commenting on the kneeling during the National Anthem controversy on my social media accounts but not here. But tonight I want to share a few thoughts on the actions of NFL players who have protested continued inequities, injustice, evil, and racism in the United States by choosing to kneel during the National Anthem.

The fact is these players as much as their critics claim otherwise are not protesting the Flag, nor are they insulting the troops. They are doing what all true American patriots have done since the beginning of our American experiment. They are being as patriotic as our founders were when they not only criticized, but took up arms against England. After all as Adlai Stevenson once said “Do not… regard the critics as questionable patriots.  What were Washington and Jefferson and Adams…

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Puerto Rican Recovery

The utter devastation wreaked by hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico is proving to be much greater than that of its predecessors Harvey and Irma on the mainland United States. The effort being put forth to this point to speed recovery from the damage caused by Maria has thus far been slow developing and leaving much to be desired. Electricity was wiped out for the vast majority of the island. Food and drinkable water became scarce, while communications and fuel for transportation (including that required to distribute needed relief supplies) also became difficult to acquire.

Whereas help was sent almost as soon as the other two storms dissipated, and President Trump and other Administration officials visited the stricken areas swiftly as well, over a week passed from the arrival of Maria until the President made a visit there. The sense of urgency for dealing with victims in Texas, Florida and other areas affected by Harvey and Irma was not reflected in equal measure by the response to Maria in Puerto Rico.

When frustration at the lateness and effectiveness of the response was understandably expressed by the Mayor of San Juan, the largest city on the island, the President chose to take another of his famous golf weekends and rant on Twitter about how wonderfully the recovery effort was going. He blamed the mayor and the victims themselves of basically whining and refusing to make any efforts to recover on their own – expecting the Federal Government to do all the heavy lifting for them.

Granted, Puerto Rico’s location (separated from the mainland United States by miles of open ocean) makes the recovery operation both more costly and more time-consuming than that necessary for the victims of the other two storms. However, many have observed  President Trump’s past words and deeds and see other explanations for his lack of enthusiasm for this particular effort. This deals with who the actual victims of this natural disaster are and the actual political power they have to sway the President and his political base.

Puerto Rico is a US Territory, similar to the US Virgin Islands, Guam and some other small islands. Puerto Rican people are born and raised American  citizens. Like the residents of the District of Columbia, they have no elected voting representation in Congress. Unlike the residents of DC, however, they don’t even have electoral votes to be cast in Presidential elections. They are free to move to states and then have a voice equal to the rest of the American citizens of those states in voting for Senators and US Representatives, but not if they remain home in Puerto Rico. When I was growing up in Western New York, there was a sizable Puerto Rican community there. Several other states also have such communities. While growing up, I knew many Puerto Rican natives, but few Mexican immigrants or natives of other Latin American countries. Being largely Spanish speaking and Hispanic heritage, many members of Trump’s base incorrectly lump them in with those other groups when it comes to their rights of citizenship. They also get blamed, like members of those other groups, for stealing jobs from “legitimate Americans”.

Our current President’s oft-expressed disparaging attitudes towards Hispanic people may be part of his lack of motivation to effectively deal with the severe hardships visited on the residents of Puerto Rico by this natural disaster. Failure to prioritize the island’s needs certainly doesn’t hurt him with his base supporters. Nor will it directly affect his re-election chances, since Puerto Rico has no say in Presidential elections.

The population of Puerto Rico exceeds three million, giving the island more potential voters than several of our current fifty states. Vermont, another state I have lived a significant portion of my life in, has less than one million. If Puerto Ricans are truly American citizens, they deserve the same political representation as the rest of us. Making it a state would go a long way towards providing that. Had a similar storm devastated Hawaii, does anyone believe the response from the federal government would’ve approximated what Puerto Rico’s has been so far? It certainly wasn’t in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor – and Hawaii wasn’t even a state yet then.

Adequate recovery operations can restore Puerto Rico to the condition it was in prior to Maria. Infrastructure can even be improved from what it was before economically, environmentally and in a timely manner that improves the lives of the residents overall. Using the island and its people as political pawns to further an agenda that suits needs and desires of predatory corporations and intolerance towards ethnic minority communities is unacceptable in a forward looking humane society. We need leadership in Washington that actually leads rather than rules, and does so fairly and equitably towards all its citizens. Towards all people, actually, but eliminating more of the inequities and unfairness that have been accepted among even our own defined citizenry would be an immediate step in the right direction to begin with.

Further Suggested Readings:

Make Puerto Rico a state

Maria power outage puts old, vulnerable at risk in Puerto Rico

Factbox: Relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

Damning Report Shows That Trump’s Inadequate Puerto Rico Response Will Cost Lives

General Who Oversaw Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort Is Blasting Trump’s Puerto Rico Response

Puerto Rico’s drinking-water crisis isn’t going away anytime soon

Fight Against Gun Violence and Demand More Aid for Puerto Rico

Trump shows ‘basic lack of humanity’ in Puerto Rico

Oxfam slams US response in Puerto Rico as ‘slow, inadequate’

Could Donald Trump Have Been Any More Condescending to the People of Puerto Rico?

Trump Slammed for Slow Maria Response As Aid Piles Up on San Juan’s Docks

We’re Failing the U.S. Citizens of Puerto Rico 

As Wall Street Vultures Circle, Demands for Immediate Puerto Rico Debt Relief

Trump’s Frightening Puerto Rico Moment: "This Is An Island. Surrounded by Water. Big Water, Ocean Water."

For Il Trumpe, Mexican Is The New Puerto Rican

Why the Governor of Puerto Rico Praised Trump

For Il Trumpe, Mexican Is The New Puerto Rican

President Trump’s consistently disparaging public statements dealing with just about all things Hispanic would appear to bear witness to the veracity of this hypothesis. His tweets on Puerto Rico and actions upon his visit there provide further testimony. What were the paper towels you were tossing to the crowd intended to signify? Give us a break. Over three million US citizens deserve far more consideration than has been  provided to date. – RJC

Mike the Mad Biologist

I’ve made this point before on the Twitterz, but we’ll outsource the long version to Greg Laden (boldface mine):

Where I grew up, all the white people sorted out and looked down upon each other by closely defined European ethnicity, and all the white people feared and distrusted all the black people, and there was one Japanese guy. But, we knew about, were told about, Puerto Ricans. That was in upstate New York, and New York City had a lot of Puerto Ricans, to the extent that as a child I thought Puerto Rico was an island just a few miles off New York City (because I was told that, don’t know why). White New Yorkers historically disdain Puerto Ricans because people from Puerto Rico represent one of the largest Hispanic groups in that area, or at least, did for many decades, while certain people were growing up and…

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Ending DACA Without Comprehensive Immigration Reform Is Wrong

In his campaign for the Republican nomination, the campaign for the general election last November and the time since his inauguration, President Trump has consistently gone out of his way to denigrate undocumented immigrants. Through his executive orders attempting to ban people from certain predominantly Islamic nations from traveling here, his demagogic rhetoric about building a more effective wall to act as a barrier keeping people from legally enter the US from Mexico and his attempts to portray immigrants as people who are threats to our national security (terrorists) and economy (stealing jobs of American workers).

In addition to his efforts to cut down on illegal entry into this country, President Trump has ramped up efforts to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, many of who have been living, working, attending school and otherwise become productive, contributing members of our society. Attempts to address serious flaws in existing immigration laws through new legislation have been stalled for years now, but calls for dealing with the problems created by these flaws have continued unabated.

The Trump campaign promises to reverse perceived immigration trends and thereby improve job prospects and wages for American workers who feel wages are being depressed by the abundance of undocumented immigrants willing to work for lower wages (and employers who are more than willing to pit the two groups against each other} met with a great deal of success at the polls last November. His promise to also repatriate jobs which had been exported to other countries also struck a positive chord with many.blue collar workers who had been voting Democratic in recent decades.

Despite Trump’s rhetoric to the contrary, the Obama administration had for years been deporting larger numbers of undocumented immigrants than had previous US administrations. He had also called for concerted Congressional efforts to alleviate the problems through bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. This effort came up short. as had previous attempts before his administration. Concern over the effects of this continuing uncertainty led him to enact the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy to allow those who arrived in this country as minors coming with their parents, through no fault of their own, to remain here for a period of time to work, attend school, etc., without fear of summary deportation proceedings.

Because of an apparent desire (often rather explicitly professed) on the part of President Trump to repeal, replace, overturn or otherwise undo virtually any accomplishment achieved by President Obama, Trump has recently come out and announced that he would be ending the DACA program – thus subjecting the participants to renewed anxiety as to their future lives in this country. The whole mass deportation scenario, rife as it is with the splitting up of families – many members of which were born in this country, and hence possess American citizenship.

The situation is not only of Trump’s making – though he is, of course, responsible for ratcheting up the rhetoric and vitriol with his outrageous campaign rallies claiming falsely that the undocumented immigrants are teaming with murderers, rapists, drug dealers and the worst elements of humanity. His demonizing of immigrants from most everywhere, but especially from Mexico and predominantly Islamic countries helped exacerbate the racist and xenophobic fears of many who ended up supporting Trump’s Presidential run. It also feeds into the divide and conquer techniques used for eons to keep the elites in charge by maintaining sufficient division among the lower classes to prevent them from uniting against them – whether it be aristocracy vs. serfs, capitalists vs. workers or whatever other form of societal power structure may exist at any given time and place. The American workers being pitted against the undocumented immigrants by those exploiting the labor of both for their their own profit have more in common with each other than they do with the elites, bosses, 1% or whatever you may wish to call the ones in economic and/or political power.

In any event, human compassion dictates that the scenario under which Trump and his minions forcibly deport the 20 or so million undocumented immigrants now here, ripping apart families based upon different citizenship status, simultaneously causing various degrees of economic and societal chaos in the process, needs to be halted, or at least slowed down. In this country, that would seem to entail having Congress stop shirking its duty and hashing out a coherent immigration policy that is both acceptable to a vast majority of us while being minimally disruptive of our society as a whole and the overall economy. The policy needs to also ensure human and civil rights of all are adequately protected and preserved. Congress also needs to step up and perform its functions regarding a host of other policy arenas, not the least of which are war and foreign policy in general, health care and labor rights.

Stop letting Donald Trump’s frantic search for constant positive media attention distract us from dealing with prioritizing issues and situations as they occur. He spends lots of time creating distractions trying to protect himself from criticism and possible legal difficulties. He obviously has skeletons in his closet, the least of which may be hidden in his heavily guarded tax returns. Be that as it may, many peoples’ lives and futures are at stake here. Immigration policy needs to be kept separate from racial, religious and other forms of arbitrary bigotry. I don’t know how much of a racist, misogynist, white supremacist or other purveyor of wanton hatred Donald Trump is in his heart of hearts, but I do know he certainly comes across as each at times during his public appearances, and he certainly goes overboard in supporting such activities and their adherents on TV. Such practices have no legitimate place in policy decision-making in 21st century America, or anywhere else for that matter.

Further Suggested Readings:

Congressional GOP breaking with Trump over DACA

Morning Joe unloads on McConnell and Ryan for pleading impotence while Trump kills DACA

Trump DACA move makes life for Congress harder

Trump admin. memo says DACA recipients should prepare for ‘departure’

The Benefits of DACA for Recipients and America

President Trump’s DACA Statement, Annotated.

States Sue To Block DACA Termination, Citing Trump’s ‘Racial Animus’

Trump Warned: ‘If You End DACA, We Will Make Your Life Impossible’

Trump’s Repeal of DACA May Become GOP’s Worst Nightmare

Obama’s heartfelt post on DACA is going viral.

Making an America Worthy of the Dreamers’ Dreams

Ending DACA Lowers Wages and Tax Revenue, and Degrades Labor Standards

GOP — Deadbeat Dads of DACA

Behind Trump’s Heartless Attack on the DREAMers

Over 5 Million Families in America are at Risk of Being ‘Divided by Deportation’

GOP to Latinos: Drop Dead

Congress shoves Dreamer fix down the docket

The Economic Benefits of Passing the Dream Act

#TakeAKnee

Recent days have seen US President Donald Trump attack both the Constitutional right to free speech and major professional athletes at the same time. As has been his practice since even before taking office as this country’s top elected official, he chose a campaign-style rally deep in the red state of Alabama to display the total lack of judgment that has endeared him to his base and infuriated much of the rest of the country for months.

Colin Kaepernick, most recently employed as quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, who he led to the Super Bowl a few years back, began kneeling on the sidelines during the playing of our national anthem prior to the team’s games last season in protest over the lack of progress regarding race relations in this country. Most people feel that his position on this matter was the primary factor that resulted in his benching by the team and subsequent lack of interest by any other team in the league in acquiring his services as quarterback.

Since this controversy surfaced. Kaepernick’s plight has gained some recognition among other players (some of whom have acted likewise in solidarity) and fans. As the season approached and Kaepernick was still without a team, despite a dearth of talented signal-callers (not to mention backups) which sees many teams in dire straits at the position. Most objective knowledgeable observers both agree that his talents place him above many of the starters and most of the backup quarterbacks currently holding down roster spots and that his beef concerning race relations is not without merit. Increasing numbers of players on teams throughout the league had begun taking similar positions during this season’s exhibition and early regular games.

Up steps Donald Trump – he of tone deaf, white supremacist and neo-Nazi apologist fame, most recently exhibited by his comments following a protest incident resulting in the death by motor vehicle of a counter protester in Charlottesville, VA. He stated that the owners of teams with players expressing themselves in the aforementioned manner should have those players disciplined (even used his accustomed “You’re fired” phrase from his glory days as star of his reality TV show “The Apprentice”).

His bullying tactics in this matter have so far met with predictable negative response by players, team owners, many fans and athletes in other sports (including the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, whose White House invitation was revoked when it became apparent they weren’t interested in meeting with him anyway, given his stance on race relations). Say something about limiting access to guns and Trump becomes all NRA about protecting the sacrosanct second amendment, but he’s all for tossing out the first amendment if it means allowing someone to peacefully protest against societal problems that he feels uncomfortable addressing.

The United States of America is not an extension of your private companies, Mr. President. You don’t have the ability by virtue of your electoral victory, tenuous as that may be, to force others to submit to your will or risk punishment if they publicly oppose your version of reality and definition of right and wrong. The bullying tactics that served you so well in helping you achieve your current status as head of the executive branch of our Federal government will not always serve you well in carrying out those duties. The opposition you have faced in trying to run roughshod over the people and the Constitution you have pledged under oath to serve in areas such as health care, immigration, jobs, education and the other facets of life you promised your backers in return for their votes will not abate simply because you wish it to or demand it.

Just as was the case with the furor our fearless leader elicited in the wake of the Charlottesville controversy, the pronouncement he made regarding the protest during the national anthem has aroused much more division than would have existed had he remained silent on the issue. He seems to have chosen for himself the role of Divider-In-Chief where what is called for is a unifying force instead. The name calling is counterproductive and only serves to inflame tensions and make violence more likely rather than curbing it. The same may be said about his approach to foreign policy, where he seems bound and determined to alienate longtime allies and ratchet up tensions with every country that won’t bow to his will – except, of course, Russia, and perhaps Israel. But I digress. Foreign policy awaits a future essay.

President Trump needs to stop looking for apologies from people who call him out on his support for right wing extremist groups on the domestic front. Whether or not he is a White Supremacist or rampant racist is irrelevant to whether or not his pronouncements provide such groups with support and serve to facilitate further escalation of their violent tendencies. His political speeches during the campaign and since taking office have encouraged violent action on the part of some of his base that he has shown no inclination to abate. For its part, Congress has shown little appetite, other than its inability to legislate anything of significance, to put the breaks on his authoritarian tendencies (I’m not totally complaining here, given the atrocious legislation they’ve tried to force down out throats to date). The Courts have helped to a certain extent (with some of his more nefarious executive orders) – but how can that last when he has the power to nominate new people to fill vacancies as they occur?

Like others who have spoken out publicly against President Trump’s recent pronouncements regarding the National Anthem protests, I encourage solidarity among all the players – not just those of color – as well as management, owners and fans. The issues being raised are real and need to be addressed by society as a whole. Continuing to sweep them under the rug is not acceptable. Blackballing talented athletes for expressing opinions contrary to the opinions of powerful people is no more acceptable now than it was when Joe McCarthy conducted his reign of terror at the height of the Cold War. Making a statement that the Star Spangled Banner does little to address the frustrated aspirations of millions of our people is not meant as an affront to those, past and present, who have fought and died to protect and preserve the values that we live by, but the desire to see them better embodied for all of us, rather than just a privileged few.

Suggested Further Actions:

Everyone in the @NFL needs to #TakeAKnee, join me in telling the league to act to protect the right to protest!

Suggested Further Readings:

Democrat Urges All NFL Athletes To Kneel During Anthem To Protest ‘White Supremacist’ Trump

Protests surface across NFL after Trump criticism

If You’ve Never Lived In Poverty, Stop Telling Poor People What To Do

Wouldn’t it be nice? As time goes on, it seems like more and more people with the power to change things for the better for those living in poverty haven’t a clue as to what life is like for those living in it. How many millionaires are there in Congress and the White House these days? How many of those people have even an ounce of empathy for the rest of us? – RJC

 

Source: If You’ve Never Lived In Poverty, Stop Telling Poor People What To Do

Five Choices: Which Way Forward For Progressives?

Some proposals for Progressives to ponder in search for a better future. Long but worth the read. – RJC

Source: Article: Five Choices | OpEdNews

Wonder if the Arch-authoritarian Racist Idiot Donald Trump will Make it to 2020? by Paul Street

Some good questions raised here pertaining to the mess that is US national politics today. – RJC

Source: Wonder if the Arch-authoritarian Racist Idiot Donald Trump will Make it to 2020? by Paul Street

Sabotaging America For Fun And Profit

The Trump Administration seems to be on its way to becoming one of the more chaotic presidential administrations in modern times – if not in all of our history. The turmoil and rapid turnover in key positions on the President’s staff, as well as his remarkable penchant for making what many see as outrageous statements on Twitter and on camera, have ensured that he remains a topic of hot discussion in the media despite the fact that he is on an alleged 17 day “vacation” and Congress is in the midst of a month long vacation referred to a recess. Heads keep rolling (figuratively speaking), new revelations keep surfacing related to the various investigations being conducted, and international relations seem to be kept in an extremely agitated state – spurred on largely by a back and forth exchange of pleasantries (please give me some license for sarcasm here) between the heads of state of North Korea and the USA.

Some bottled up frustration on the part of President Trump is understandable. His legislative agenda seems to be at a virtual standstill prompted by more than a month of heavy infighting regarding attempts to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act. Heavy lobbying by the White House managed to get a bill passed by the House, but nothing has been passed in the Senate. Every bill that has made it to a floor vote has promised to take coverage away from millions of Americans. Trump’s campaign promises called for repealing the law, but replacing it with a better one which would improve the level of care nationwide. The President seems to have forgotten or given up entirely trying to fulfill that promise, and has at times even supported the notion of letting the system implode, resulting in untold misery for millions of Americans and major damage to the private health insurance industry as a whole.

Another area of the health care debate involved major cuts to the Medicaid budget. Hundreds of billions would be slashed in Medicaid, despite Trump’s campaign promise not to attack Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The people who would be most negatively affected by either version up for discussion in Congress would have been the poor, elderly, disabled and those with other pre-existing conditions which historically have made it difficult and extremely expensive to cover. To sabotage the current system rather than fixing it is absolutely unconscionable for any person looking out for the welfare of the people supposedly being represented by this government – up to and including our President. No one, including Congressional Democrats and advocates of single-payer, universal coverage, thinks the ACA is flawless, but short-term fixes to stabilize markets is certainly preferable to throwing millions of people to the wolves with no coverage at all.

The beneficiaries of such sabotage would be the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers – who would receive tax cuts paid for by the hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts to Medicaid. Ironically, some of those hardest hit by these cuts would be millions of Trump’s most ardent supporters in last year’s election. No good deed goes unpunished, right, Mr. President?

An argument could be made that most of the composition of Trump’s cabinet has been aimed at a general sabotage of many of the safeguards that have been implemented from the New Deal era right up to the present. Public withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, as well as rollbacks of numerous environmental regulations to appease corporate oligarchs in their insatiable search for ever-higher profits, endanger future habitability of the planet as well as the health and wellbeing of those poor enough not to be able to avoid the more immediate health consequences of living in close proximity to the toxins in the increased pollution. Why is he pushing for more fossil fuel extraction and its inherent ecological dangers rather than jobs dealing with cleaner forms of energy?

Moves afoot regarding labor also involve making union organizing more difficult and giving increased power to corporate management over their workers. As if the race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions brought about by state right-to-work (for less) laws and the advent of corporate friendly international “free trade” agreements wasn’t already a bane on the existence of ordinary workers – the powers that be in the Trump Administration are seeking to increase the level of wealth and income inequality between corporate executives, shareholders and workers even more. Make America Great Again for Wall Street, but not Main Street? No, thanks.

In areas under the purview of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions (allegedly one of the President’s targets for elimination, due to his following the law and recusing himself in areas related to the Russian collaboration investigations) is promising and already delivering on rolling back much of the progress achieved by previous administrations. Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, the War on Drugs and Criminal Justice Reforms are all being systematically attacked – to the detriment of LGBTQ individuals, minority racial, ethnic and religious groups, voters, and others subject to the long arm of the federal judiciary. Selective enforcement and severity of punishment are beginning to harken back to the way things were when conventional wisdom thought refusing civil rights to some groups of people was acceptable and the mass incarceration for long periods of time for non-violent drug offenses was deemed appropriate. That’s backsliding, not progress.

Our democracy is under further attack directly by the President in the form of his bogus committee investigating allegedly widespread voter fraud to further disenfranchise eligible voters more likely to vote against the GOP in future elections. Even public education is being attacked by an Education Secretary who favors privatization of public schools in the form of for-profit charter schools – another recipe for increased societal inequality in terms of educational opportunity.

The Trump agenda, as articulated on the campaign trail in the lead-up to last November’s election, appears to have been largely supplanted by the reactionary Ryan budget from his time as House Budget Committee Chair during the Obama Administration. His promises to bring back good jobs that were shipped abroad to take advantage of cheaper labor seem to be coming up short so far. His promise of a greater economy providing wage growth for all, with more and better jobs, also seems to be harder to achieve than he led his supporters to believe.

The devil lies in the details, many of which will come to the fore once Congress returns to sort out the latest debt ceiling crisis, budget for the coming fiscal year and any tax reforms it manages to push through, but I don’t hold out much hope for anyone who isn’t already in the top 1% economically being placed on better footing by this Administration and Congress. If your idea of Making America Great Again is to make the already wealthy wealthier, the already powerful more powerful and inequalities and inequities in most every facet of lives being brought to new extremes, Trump and this Congress may accomplish it. That is not my vision of a greater society. I sincerely doubt it fits that bill for most of those who voted for Trump last fall, either.

What effect our President’s bombastic approach to foreign policy – diplomatic, military or otherwise – will have on future events is difficult to predict. His recent performance in dealing with rightwing extremism and white supremacists here at home has shown more people than ever before his unsuitability for the job he was chosen for. The constant turmoil and sense of desperation he demonstrates on a regular basis in his dealings with political foes and allies alike, as well as the news media, may make for good TV ratings, but it does not bode well for either his public approval polling or the wellbeing of either the country or the people comprising its residents and citizenry. Nobody, except perhaps for his family and closest associates, voted for Donald Trump to become President so he could line his pockets at our expense. Based on his conduct so far in office, it certainly appears that may have been a major motivating factor in getting him to run – that and the fact that he’s getting more media attention than he ever dreamed possible.

We need a President and Congress more responsive to the needs and aspirations of all of this country’s people. I don’t foresee this particular group of individuals making much headway in that direction unless we cause even more of a ruckus than we have so far. At the very least, we need to make sure enough of us can still vote in 2018 to throw a good portion of them out of office and into the unemployment line.

Further Suggested Readings:

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Trump ‘wants to sabotage health care in America’

Senator announces bipartisan health care hearing on Obamacare

6-Month Update for Trump Voters

Red Alert: Team Trump Unveils Anti-Planet, Anti-Worker Corporate Wish List

Health Care in a Time of Sabotage

Trump’s Bid to Pit Black and Brown Workers Against Each Other

Sabotaging Obamacare

Trump’s In-Your-Face Impeachable Offense

Trump’s Justice Department Says Gays Aren’t Eligible for Civil Rights Protections

Trump’s terrorism adviser downplays white supremacist violence

Climate Science Out, Coal In: EPA Exhibit Will Reflect Trump’s Agenda

Former DOJ Civil Rights Head: Jeff Sessions Is Implementing an Anti-Civil Rights Agenda

Donald Trump can’t stop failing tests of moral leadership

GOP senator: racist groups think ‘they have a friend’ in Trump

NYPD slams ‘irresponsible’ Trump comments urging police not to be ‘too nice’ to suspects

White House Doubles Down On Transgender Military Ban

Trump Bulldozes Environmental Laws to Pave Way for ‘Xenophobic’ Border Wall

Trump expected to roll back LGBT protections in ObamaCare

Trump’s EPA May Be Weakening Chemical Safety Law

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