Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ELECTION CHAOS

    

 Things are getting really dicey. Just a couple of weeks to the Republican 
Convention, and huge numbers of GOP stalwarts are doing all they can to prevent Donald Trump from getting the nomination. The Bushes are not going to the convention. George Will has dropped out of the Republican Party. The Koch brothers are not contributing to Trump's campaign. Republican senators are saying that they might vote for Hillary! Republican leaders in both the House and Senate are criticizing some of The Donald's most outrageous Statements. Mitch McConnell refused to say whether Trump was qualified to be President. Polls show Hillary 12 points ahead of Donald.
    Meanwhile everything is not all sweetness and light with the Democrats. A tell-all book by a former Secret Serviceman is letting secrets out of the bag. According to this book, Hillary once threw a lamp at Bill. Pictures of the broken lamp are offered as proof. The Clinton White House was a wild, swinging times, filled with cocaine sniffing orgies. Oh My!
    Former Presidential candidate Carl Perrin has not escaped from all this calumny. Stories that came out during his 2008 campaign are rising to the surface again. According to these stories, he used federal funds to travel to Maine to see a woman young enough to be his daughter. This story was completely insidious because on the surface it is true, but the insinuation is not. The "federal funds" that Perrin used were his Social Security check. The woman "young enough to be his daughter" was in fact his daughter. Why would stories like this come out now? Perrin wasn't even in this election campaign. He found that all that politicking was interfering with his nap time. However, Hillary is looking for a vice presidential candidate to run with her. Naturally the former English professor's name came up.
Why would anyone object to Perrin's being named to the Democratic ticket? Two theories come up. Some politicians object to Perrin not because they have anything against him, but because they are promoting some other candidate for the job. Still others say that they object to Perrin because he is not qualified for the job! 
    When he was running for office in 2008, he didn't have a fully-planned platform, these people say. The only thing he promised was cheap beer. Nothing about taxes, defense, health care. Cheap beer is important, but there are other things that should concern the President.

    Perrin isn’t even sure he wants the job. Why should he settle for being vice president? He is already president of the LV Computer Club

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

OUTLAW ASSAULT RIFLES


In December 2012, in one of the worst cases of mass murder, Adam Lanza killed his mother and then went to an elementary school and shot 26 first graders and six adults. Lanza had suffered with serious mental health problems through his life.
In June  2015 Dylann Storm Roof, a white man, went to a black church in Charleston, SC, and pretended to pray with the people there for a while and then shot and killed nine church members. He said that he hoped his action would start a race war.
A month later Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazees, a naturalized American citizen who had graduated from high school and college in Tennessee, went to two military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, TN, and shot five military recruiters to death and wounded three more.
That October Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer shot and killed eight of his fellow students and his teacher to death at Umpqua Community College. He had struggled with mental issues since his teenage years.
The next month Robert Lewis Dear went to a Planned Parenthood Office in Colorado Springs, CO, where he shot twelve people, including a police officer. Three of his victims died from the gunshot wounds. Recently he was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial for his crimes.
In December of 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook, born in America and working for the county Department of Public Health, along with his wife Tashfeen Malik, went to a holiday party in San Bernadino, CA, where his coworkers were still celebrating, and killed 14 and wounded 22.
Then on June 12, 2016 Noor Mateen, also American born, went to a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, where he used an assault rifle to slaughter 49 people and wound over 50 more. He had worked as a security guard, so he must have been investigated before he was hired. Nevertheless, he was an unstable person. His ex-wife stated that Mateen flew into rages and beat her. People who knew him said he was not very religious, yet as he began his assault, he called 911, and claimed allegiance to ISIS. His father said that Mateen had once seen two men kissing in the street, and flew into a rage because of the sight. Yet he had often frequented the club himself in the past. There is some suggestion that part of Mateen’s anger came from conflict over his own sexual orientation.
What is the common denominator in these and similar terrible acts of carnage in recent years? You can’t say it is the Muslim religion. Three of the men were Muslims, yet they were all American citizens, two of them born in this country. All three of them seemed to have fit in well with American culture. Abdulazees and Farook were college graduates.
Is the denominator mental health? Dear, Harper-Mercer, and Lanza all had severe mental health problems. Anyone who contemplates such horrific crimes as these of course has serious mental problems. Despite his problems, Harper-Mercer was able to enlist in the army, although he did not make it through basic training. Despite Mateen’s tendency to violence, he was able to function on his job and legally to buy an assault weapon. You can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of mentally unstable people if the weapons are available at all. People can sometimes function pretty well and then suddenly flip out. As Richard Cohen said, in the Washington Post, “We can’t even keep nuts from running for President.” So trying to keep weapons of mass destruction from mentally unstable people but making them available for others will not work.
What all these events have in common is the ease with which unstable people are able to purchase guns. In the events that created the most the shooters were armed with assault rifles.  We need to keep these weapons from the hands of EVERYONE. No civilian needs an AK-15. These guns are made to kill a large number of people at once. We don’t need an AK-15 for hunting. We don’t need one for home protection. These are military rifles. They have no place in the hands of individuals.
 Don’t say that we need to have such weapons to protect ourselves from the federal government who might take our guns away. Paranoia is a mental illness. Do we want people to be able to have machine guns, mortars and tanks as well?
The only way to keep assault rifles out of the hands of mentally unstable people is to keep them out of the hands of all civilians. Don’t say that if we ban assault rifles from ordinary people, only outlaws will have these guns. Don’t say that the government is trying to take away your guns. It is only trying to take away the kind of guns that no civilian should have any use for.
During prohibition gangsters used tommy guns to fight rival gangs and law enforcement officers. Finally the federal government solved the problem by levying a huge tax on these weapons and sawed-off shotguns.   One gangster, Jack Miller, a bank robber, was caught with a sawed-off shotgun. He was charged with having an unregistered weapon, essentially a tax evasion. The case went to the Supreme Court, which decided:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ’shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.
These weapons are no longer in use. There is no reason that the same thing can’t be done with assault rifles.
Except that the National Rifle Association will fight to defeat the re-election of any member of Congress who votes for reasonable gun laws. Haven’t we been intimidated by the NRA long enough? Maybe it is time that sane people mount a campaign to fight the re-election of members of Congress who refuse to create laws that protect our citizens from the crazies who use assault rifles to murder our citizens.





Sunday, June 12, 2016

CONTEMPT OF COURT



If you or I were involved in a law suit and we declared that the judge in our case couldn’t rule fairly because of his ethnic background, wouldn’t we be subject to a ruling of contempt of court? To refer to an American-born judge as a Mexican because his parents were from Mexico is just another outrageous statement from Donald Trump. To charge that the judge’s ethnic background would prevent him from ruling fairly in a case against Trump is particularly egregious. Trump is charging that Curiel’s ethnic background prevents him from performing his sworn duty.


The fact that Trump made these charges outside of the courtroom doesn’t make any difference. They show disrespect for the court. It is still contempt of court, and Trump should be made to pay for his outlandish charges, just as you or I would have to.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

BERNIE AND DONALD



A few weeks ago I saw a Facebook posting with pictures from the late sixties or early seventies. On one side was Bernie Sanders being dragged away by the police. Opposite was Donald Trump in uniform. Not the uniform of the United States military but the uniform of the military prep school he attended. The message evidently was supposed to show Sanders as a trouble maker, a rabble rouser who was in trouble with the law while Trump was a law-abiding citizen, being educated to defend the United States militarily.

Somehow that was not the message I got. Bernie Sanders was doing what he has always done and continues to do: he was fighting against injustice wherever he saw it.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, was posturing. Even though he went to a military prep school and later would cite that as a key to his insight into the military, in fact Trump never served in the military. He was able to avoid the draft during the war in Vietnam because he had “a foot thing.”

Further, he has never supported the military. He put down John McCain because he had been captured, as though that made him less of a man. McCain didn’t exactly surrender on the battle front. He was shot out of the sky. He endured five years of captivity and torture and refused to go home ahead of his comrades when he had an opportunity.

Trump showed how loyal he was to veterans when he held an event to raise funds for veterans’ organizations. Except he didn’t turn the funds over to those groups until he was shamed into it four months later by The Washington Post.


Bernie Sanders is a man who stands up for what he believes in. Donald Trump is an empty suit, an embarrassment.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

SCARED TRUMP


Donald Trump is scared, really scared. How else do you explain his actions not only during the campaign but especially in the last few weeks? From the beginning he has done things that no politician has ever done before. And he has got away with it! He attacked his rivals for the nomination, not their ideas, but their personal traits. He alienated large groups of people: women, veterans, Hispanics. The Republican establishment hates him because of his attacks on Republicans as well as for what he is doing to the GOP.

But now the nomination is all but in hand. This would be the time for Trump to start mending fences, making nice with the groups that he has been insulting, to unite the Republican Party behind him. But he’s doing just the opposite of that. At a rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he lashed out at the governor of the state, Susana Martinez. What did Trump have against her? She did not show up for his rally. Martinez is not only the governor of New Mexico; she is also head of the Republican Governors’ Association, a group that can do a lot to turn out the vote for the GOP. In one fell sweep the Donald further alienated women, Hispanics, and the Republican hierarchy.

But he didn’t stop there. Later he went on to attack another female Republican governor, Nikki Haley of South Carolina because she endorsed Marco Rubio. While he was at it, called Jeb Bush low energy and called Mitt Romney a choker “who walks like a penguin.” Their sins? They failed to endorse the Donald. One major Republican says he doesn’t fear Trump losing; he fears that Trump will win and an indelible scar on the GOP.

Talk of pushing someone else into the nomination through a brokered convention seems to have died out. There is talk of a third party candidate who would take some votes from Trump. Recent surveys have shown Donald and Hillary neck and neck. As horrible as the thought is, it seems possible that Trump could be the next president. And it is possible that no one is more frightened by that thought than Trump himself.

According to speculation that is going around, the idea of running for the presidency grew out of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2011. At that occasion Trump was the butt of jokes by President Obama and comedian Seth Meyers. A man who combines an over-inflated ego with deep personal insecurity, Trump, according to the speculation, decided to get revenge by running for the presidency.

At first Trump never thought he would actually win; he just wanted to show those professional politicians a thing or two. Doing everything “wrong” at a time when the public was sick to death of the politicians, he probably surprised himself as much as anyone as he won primary after primary.

But now the day of reckoning is approaching. What if he is actually elected? What would he do then? Even he must have some inkling that he is no way capable of doing the job. And worse: the president make $400,000 a year. That would be a cut in pay for the tycoon. His ego wouldn’t allow that.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

TRACKER



I am scared. I mean really scared. A few weeks ago my wife and I got an offer to lower our automobile insurance by up to 30 percent. All we had to do was put a tracker under the dashboard in our car. The tracker would record our driving habits and send them to the insurance company. We soon learned that we both had a bad habit: Jack rabbit starts (me), hard braking (Janet). So we’re trying to rein in those habits. In the meantime someone told Janet that the tracker was another means of keeping us under surveillance.

That got me to thinking about the other ways that outsiders can look into our private affairs. The first thing that comes to mind is EZ Pass. With that device, the government can tell what time you went through each toll booth. They can even estimate your speed. A long time ago my father got a speeding ticket when he went from one toll booth to another in less time than he would have been able to if he didn’t go over the speed limit.

A few years ago I took some pictures of Janet in Maine with my cell phone. Those pictures are stamped with the date and place, so they show that Janet was in Freeport, Maine, on a certain date. There are still other ways to follow my movements. If I make a cell phone call, investigators can pinpoint my location through triangulating the cell phone towers that carry my call.

And then there is all that stuff on the internet. Google, Facebook, et al, know where I browsed, how long I stayed on particular sites, what I ordered over the internet. We have no privacy anymore.

I am not particularly paranoid, so why am I worried? I am worried that a year from now, Donald Trump could be President of the United States. What has that got to do with being tracked on the internet? Just this: I would not want to live in a country under President Trump. As Trump started pulling ahead of his rivals, I began speculating whether I could claim dual citizenship and move to Canada. (My parents were still Canadian citizens when I was born.) I realize, however, that at my age it would be a difficult adjustment for me to move to a country that is even colder than Maine in winter. I need a Plan B.

The prospect of the general election is frightening. The best thing you can say about a Hillary-Donald match-up is, “I admit my candidate isn’t very good, but at least he/she would not be as bad as yours.”

If The Donald becomes president, and it becomes too difficult for me to move to Canada, I would at least like to move to a cave somewhere where no one could find me. But with all that tracking, geopositioning, internet cookies, etc., there is no way I could I could disappear from view.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE MIDDLE CLASS?



It’s disappearing. That’s what. The middle class, as defined by families with an annual income from $35,000 to $100,000, is dwindling. In 1967, 53 percent on the American population fit into this category. By 2013 only 43 percent were in the middle income group.

It’s pretty common knowledge how this has come about. Good paying factory jobs have gone overseas or have been taken over by robots in this country. People with limited education have been particularly hard hit by this change in the economy. It has become difficult for them to find jobs, and when they are hired, the pay is much lower than it would have been in factory jobs in the past.

Younger people graduating from college face their own set of problems. They are saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, and it is not easy for them to find good jobs. Many young men and women in their late twenties, instead of setting out on their own, are moving back in with their parents.

The middle class is hurting. Not only has the quality of their lives been diminished, but the length of life itself is getting shorter. The life expectancy of Americans grew dramatically over the 20th century. It continues to grow in the current century—except for middle-aged whites. The people in this group are dying at a faster rate through an increase in suicides and problems related to substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of opioids. This is particularly true of people who had not gone to college.

For many in this group, the American Dream is a fantasy. Some bankers became obscenely rich through weird schemes which involved giving mortgages to people who would not be able make the payments. Then the bottom fell out as the Great Recession hit. Middle class people lost their jobs, their homes, and their health insurance, which was tied to those jobs. They looked to government for help, but they didn’t get it. Instead of working together, Congress and the White House were at odds. The Senate majority leader said that his main goal was to see that Obama would be a one-term president.

It should be no surprise then that embittered members of the middle class do not expect any help from government and reach to outsiders who can shake things up and get government working again. The problem is, these outsiders will not be able to keep the promises they have been making. Even though Bernie Sanders has been in the United States Senate for a long time, he is an outsider. He calls himself a Democratic Socialist. He was not even a member of the Democratic Party until he decided to run for the presidency. His proposals sound good to many people: Put tighter controls on the banks, make the super rich pay more taxes. Let all Americans who want to go to college. The difficulty is, these things don’t come about by fiat. They require the cooperation with Congress. How do you think the current Congress would respond to Bernie’s proposals?

Donald Trump may be intelligent (as he keeps telling people), but he is profoundly ignorant. As the owner of a vast real estate empire, he is not even answerable to a corporate board. It’s his money, and he can do whatever he wants with it. The President of the United States does not have that freedom. He is answerable to Congress, the Supreme Court, and the people of the United States. If the American people are unhappy with the president, he can be impeached.

Not only does Trump fail to recognize the limits of the president’s ability, he (Trump) doesn’t even seem to have a clear vision of how to accomplish any of the thing he calls for or to recognize what damage some of his proposals would do to the position of the United States in the world.

Since the malaise of the middle class arose from the elimination of good paying factory jobs, both Trump and Sanders have plans to fix it. Trump would start imposing high tariffs on goods imported from China. The problem with that is that China and other countries would retaliate by charging high tariffs on goods from the United States. It would lead to world-wide economic turmoil. In the end, it would do more harm than good to the American economy.

Sanders would stop international trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership., which he believe would result in sending more American jobs overseas.

The problem with both their views is that they want to take America back to some point in the past. Trump wants to “Make America Great Again.” And you can’t go back. The past that we remember with such nostalgia is gone. The world has been changed profoundly in the last quarter century by computers. Instead of looking toward the past, we need to look to the future where more computer-related jobs will be created. In the transition to that future, we need to help the middle class.

Think of the projects created by Franklin Roosevelt to help the country climb out of the Great Depression. These projects put millions of people to work and helped improve the country’s infrastructure. Under Eisenhower people were put to work creating America’s superhighways. The infrastructure today is in bad shape. Many of the country’s bridges are unsafe. We need to fix them, and we need to create jobs for the millions of people who have fallen out of the middle class.