Ambidextrous Thoughts

This site is intended to offer research and commentary on current events covering a wide scope of topics. Over and over again, I see social media offering quick access to the latest news or trend, but often with very little thought or fact-checking put into it, which lends itself to misleading half-truths. The intent here is not to take a political side, but to discuss the differences expressed by many who use social media as their source of news and information. My aim is to look at both extremes of a topic, and try to find a way to come together. I welcome input and suggestions on subjects that you’d like to know more about. Some conversations may have a political theme, but I hope to discuss issues that affect our everyday life, whether it be what kind of education our children are really getting, why are medication prices spiraling out of control, are unions a help or a hindrance to our workers today, or what “entitlement” really means. Bookmark this spot and see how we do as we try to make a fair place to open discussions on the subjects that interest you most. By – JRBecker

A HOW-TO ABOUT CRITICISM OF THE OPPOSITION

Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 | 0 comments

A HOW-TO ABOUT CRITICISM OF THE OPPOSITION

A HOW-TO ABOUT CRITICISM OF THE OPPOSITION ONLINE

In a world where we can now speak out instantaneously about the latest news, it might be wise to consider a few things before posting.

I try to write my blog posts in an informative and unbiased way. Sometimes that’s harder to do than I anticipate. But I believe by pointing fingers and playing the blame game, we accomplish little and antagonize a lot. My goal is to try to reach out to the general public and offer useful, thought-provoking material that anyone can relate to. Sometimes I’m providing factual information, and sometimes I’m attempting to look at issues in a more philosophical manner, Today I want to do a little of both.

On a daily basis, we see cartoons, hear jokes, or read articles that are disparaging, derogatory or distasteful. Most of these are directed at political figures or groups, or at sports or entertainment celebrities. But some are against ordinary groups of people, like ‘all republicans’ or ‘all democrats’ or in the worst cases, against an ordinary individual. On occasion, the joke or cartoon is not meant to hurt anyone, but is a thoughtless depiction derived of a dark sense of humor. When aimed at an individual, it becomes a type of bullying and/or discrimination. This is the kind of stuff that we read about, where a teenager commits suicide after being shamed or humiliated online or at school. What started out as a bad joke can turn into an insulting, hurtful continuum of degrading ridicule, leading to utter despair by the targeted person.

Kids are generally not mean spirited and cruel by nature. Most of the time this is learned behavior – sometimes by the way they’re treated, and sometimes by watching the behavior of others around them. At times, they get swept up by their peers and join in tormenting others in order to be accepted by a desired social circle. However, more often than not, they learn this type of disrespect from their home environment, whether it be from parents, siblings, or other relatives. For more insight into what might lead to bullying behavior in your child, https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/the-parent-coach/causes-of-bullying-bullying-behavior-in-bullying-child/ leads to a site that offers a more in-depth explanation of how a child can become a bully, even when they aren’t actually being exposed to direct bullying tactics. One quote from this article jumped out at me because, as a parent, I know this to be true: “Just because a child might not always “listen” to our requests and instructions doesn’t mean they aren’t intently listening to our views of other kids, parents, teachers, neighbors, and so on.”

I would like to focus on the ways in which we unintentionally – or intentionally – bully and disrespect other people in our daily interactions. At work there is usually a code of behavior that’s implemented in the work environment. Human Resource Departments spend large quantities of their time arbitrating disputes and harassment claims between employees. Granted, some companies are better at doing this than others. At least there are rules.

But how do we interact with others in our “free time” or social activities? When approaching an opinion other than our own, do we let fly with the first thought that comes to mind, or do we consider the effectiveness of our words? There is a well-known saying, “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Of course, we’ve all said something at times that we wish we could take back. Anger generates an even more favorable climate for regrettable moments. Perhaps politics is the most conducive element for destructive thoughts, words and behavior. For one thing, we all think we’re right when it comes to politics. Of course that’s not possible, but who wants to go first and say, ‘maybe I was wrong’? Who’s going to even think it?

What’s shocking, though, is the amount of vitriol we see in social media. I often wonder, do these people talk this way to everyone, or is it the anonymity of the Internet that removes their inhibitions? I’m not going to give you any pictorial examples of the things I see posted on Face Book, Twitter, or other social media sites because if I did, most likely my site would be shut down for pornographic or inflammatory content. The verbal abuse is bad enough.

I’m not speaking of trolls, or paid antagonists, or juvenile personalities that jump onto their parent’s accounts. I’m talking about supposedly reasonable adults, maybe even relatives or people you know, that curse and insult not only a targeted politician like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, but belittle anyone who supports them, or anyone who questions a political stance. Hillary Clinton used a poor choice of words when she called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables.” I believe she was referring to the KKK which had endorsed Trump for president, or possibly the White Nationalists/Supremists who also backed him. Unfortunately, she unwittingly encompassed all Trump supporters with her statement. It sets up an atmosphere where it’s okay to use labels like repuklicans or demoRats. I suppose these names are considered to be clever. To me, the users seem ignorant. It’s as if they don’t have enough grasp of the English language to describe their thoughts and feelings, so they resort to name-calling of the basest sort.

Most people have also seen the vicious cartoons about the Obamas, either dressed in Muslim garb, or depicted as apes, and the one of Trump tweeting while on the toilet, or in an inappropriate embrace with Vladimir Putin. There are even pictures of a naked Trump statue that someone wasted their talents on. What kind of mentality finds this humorous? It’s true that the shock of seeing some of these elicits a reflexive or embarrassed laugh, but if this is a sign of a person’s true sense of humor, I don’t think I’d want to go see a comedy with them. In any event, I personally find these pictures offensive. I might agree with the sentiment, but I think less of the person who addresses it in this manner.

My parents brought me up to understand that hurting someone’s feelings is cruel. To attack their weaknesses or physical differences was shameful. To call someone fat, or ugly, or stupid, etc. shows that you are insensitive to others’ feelings. Furthermore, I can’t think of a single instance where this name-calling helped a situation. The same goes for cursing. I know all the words and what they mean, (and I’ve even used some in a fit of anger.) I know what STFU means, too, and GTFO. Google them, if you don’t. I was also taught that cursing shows a lack in vocabulary. That’s not necessarily always the case, though. Frustration often lends itself to cursing, but it’s still not a good way to communicate.

The question here is why are we arguing with people that we disagree with by going down to a level of hate-filled obnoxious commentary? When someone tells you to STFU, does their point of view even matter to you anymore? So if you talk to them that way, is there any reason to wonder why they don’t get your point? And the hate is so penetrating. In group discussions, I have seen people type that they no longer speak to members of their own family because of a political stance. They say they will never even knowingly talk to someone from the other political party. Why? How can you learn if you cut yourself off from understanding a different perspective? No one says you have to agree, but wouldn’t it be better if you consider their side, even if only to give yourself a better way to argue once you understand where their thoughts come from?

Here are some random comments I’ve seen on group postings and article comments. They come from both liberal and conservative sites and you would be wrong if you tried to guess:

  • A**hole
  • Drug addict
  • You are a nitwit (unable to determine who)
  • —shut places down so the Chinese and Russians can’t dump their trashy kids there…
  • F’ing morons
  • Facebook, please … add a puke emoticom
  • Godzilla outshines Moo-shelle
  • I can understand why leftist women are so angry. All you have to do is look at them, if you know what I mean.
  • Who cares if it wipes out Mexico? LOL (re: Hurricane Katia)
  • You pray and God preys

I’m going to throw two other points in here. One is criticism of a person’s religion (unless, of course, the subject is religion to begin with). The other is making false statements. These are two methods of arguing that are cheap shots and have no place in social discourse. False statements not only detract from your argument, but if believed can lead to serious mistakes and sometimes physical harm to other people – not to mention terrible election outcomes from time to time.

The best way to critique an article is by presenting facts and where you obtained them. Sometimes that might be personal experience, which is fine. Just use acceptable language and aim for good spelling and punctuation.

When replying to a meme, remember that lots of people you don’t know might be affected by what you say. You don’t have to sound like an English professor, and you may certainly offer criticism. That’s part of what makes these sites like Twitter, Instagram and Face Book so popular. Just be kind, or express your frustration or anger in a non-combative way. If you would be offended should someone say something similar to you, don’t say what you were about to say. – END

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THREATS TODAY WITHIN OUR OWN GOVERNMENT

Posted by on Aug 4, 2017 | 0 comments

THREATS TODAY WITHIN OUR OWN GOVERNMENT

THREATS TODAY WITHIN OUR OWN GOVERNMENT

NOTE: For readers’ convenience, definitions of some terms used in this article can be found by scrolling to the end, with links to follow as needed.

In this first quarter of the twenty-first century, we as a nation are facing threats in various forms and from several directions.

From outside, we’re involved in on-going wars throughout the Middle East, with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, ISIS insurgents in Iraq and Syria where, in Syria they become part of the Syrian civil war, to the continuing conflicts between Israel and Palestine. We have the ever-growing threat as North Korea fires off ICBMs, each time redefining the limits of their ability to strike at other countries, including the United States. Russia is pushing the borders of surrounding sovereign states, while dancing a fandango with our politically illiterate new president.

From inside our political parties are foundering, unable to connect within their own membership let alone work to reach agreements or compromises with those on the opposing side. Several of our leaders are fomenting the division deliberately, for reasons no one can determine. The oligarchs are running wild, gaining more and more wealth from the wallets of the middle and lower class citizens, some of whom are hanging on by their cracked and broken fingernails.

At first glance, our nation seems to be handling all this pretty well. The stock market is relatively stable with signs of an economic upswing in certain areas. Unemployment numbers are under 5%, although that may be an artificial reflection since many people have run out of unemployment benefits and are no longer included in the unemployed formula, and many others are employed only part time.

A second look tells us that we have major divisions in our population, with many issues coming back into play that had, a few years ago, appeared to be waning as our culture diversifies. We have an increase in hate crimes, aimed frequently at religious groups, but also directed at people of color, be it black or brown skin or some other feature that singles out a racial difference. There is a newer racism developed out of fear that is focused on immigrants from other parts of the world, and lesser understood cultures from the Middle East. Additionally, police relations with ordinary citizens are nearing a new low, and it goes both ways. Police have been ambushed or gunned down during traffic stops. Citizens have also been killed in horrific incidents of mistaken identity and hasty reactions. This is not rampant throughout America, but it is happening often enough that both sides are very jumpy and anxious when forced to interact. Add into this mix that many people are now completely stressed out about losing healthcare or their civil rights, or having their families torn apart through new regulations regarding deportation or immigration in general. On second thought, maybe our nation isn’t handling things so well after all. And maybe our Government is the biggest reason for this discontent.

First let’s ask, how does our president connect to all this? Donald Trump is a self-admitted opportunist and member of the capitalistic society. His books boast of his ability to manipulate investments and persuade people of influence and wealth to join in his business ventures. He brags about refusing to pay for contracted work, and hiring employees through the H-1B program that brings temporary workers from other countries here to work for lower wages. Politically speaking, for many years he was a registered Democrat but switched to the Republican Party in order to run for the presidency. He won the 2016 election through the Electoral College vote, but lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by over 3 million votes. It became apparent, even during the campaign, that Mr. Trump was arrogant, frequently deceitful, and bigoted, with a penchant for insulting people who dared to challenge him in any way. He promoted divisive behavior, bordering on suggested violence between his supporters and his critics. Early into his presidency, the majority of critics considered him an Oligarch while many people began to speculate that he wanted a Kleptocracy. That is to say, he was viewed as a wealthy, controlling personality, and that he saw the presidency as a way to increase his power and increase his business assets for himself and his immediate family. Before too long, it also became apparent that he thought himself above the law, and intended to rule, rather than lead the country. Mr. Trump seems to hold some strange fascination with various *strong men* in general, such as President Duterte of the Philippines, or Chinese President Xi Jinping. He has a particular interest in Russian President Vladimir Putin, and refuses to even acknowledge the interference of Russia in our 2016 election process, that every one of our security departments agree happened. As disturbing as all that is, his theories on governing are more frightening.

His idea has been to treat the government like one of his business entities. For example, when his Muslim Ban was stopped by the judicial system he railed at the courts, insisting that it was within his right alone as president to decide who entered this country. He thinks of himself as the ultimate decision maker, and it came as a hard lesson to him to find out that our democracy has checks and balances to prevent that very thing from happening. Our Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, lays out clearly that we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people. There is no King or Emperor. He has mentioned on several occasions that the Constitution is outdated and needs to be redone. His style became that of a dictator or despot as he demanded loyalty from other government officials, and fired the ones that didn’t comply. (Government officials swear a loyalty to the Constitution of the United States. They are not required to be “loyal” to a person or group.) He continually refers to the media as “fake news” and regularly ignores questions they ask. Mr. Trump doesn’t seem satisfied with being president. He appears to want to reign over the United States of America.

For the sake of comparison, here is a short list of Dictators/Tyrants that have become the heads of countries: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, Brezhnev, Putin, Bolivar, Noriega, Ortega, Hugo Chavez, Fidel and Raul Castro, Gaddafi, Arafat, Mubarak, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Kim il Sung, Kim Jong-un, Mao Zedong, and the list goes on.

What defines them as Dictators? Dictators rule through authoritarianism, discouraging or disallowing freedom of the press, speech, and other rights we recognize in a democracy.

  • Although some countries may have limited access to television entertainment, any news is offered up through state media only. Freedom of speech is also limited, especially anything negative or questioning about the leader.
  • Firm loyalty is a requirement, and any display of disloyalty can result in severe consequences up to and including imprisonment or death.
  • Education is for the wealthy only, with most other children getting a rudimentary education until they become old enough to go to work. (That age varies from nation to nation.)
  • Rights are basically meaningless under a dictatorship. Wages are what the government says they are. A worker stays until he is sent home and does the work he/she is told to do, whether it fits a certain job description or not.
  • Only the wealthy can file a law suit, and then only in a limited way. If charged with a crime, there may or may not be a trial.
  • Some dictators allow elections, but it’s hardly a choice when there is only one candidate.
  • Woman are usually second rate citizens at best. More likely, they are treated like possessions or chattel.
  • Religion may or may not factor into a dictatorship. North Korea does not recognize any religion other than the worship of Kim il Sung. Last year in Russia, Putin signed a law that allowed speaking of religion only in churches. Although Russia recognizes many religions and claims “freedom of religion” it is clear that the government controls how and where it is practiced. http://www.newsweek.com/vladimir-putin-russia-foreign-religion-crackdown-498551 ISIS, of course claims to be Islamic, but it is their own brand, not the true religion of Muslims around the world.
  • An interesting note about our Constitution: It was written and signed by men of several religious denominations, but the majority of those involved were secular (non-religious). Freedom of religion meant the freedom from religion, as well. The separation of church and state was paramount to them, as they had come out from under the rule of the Church of England and did not want a religious marker on the new world.

As pertains to our country today, Mr. Trump promised great changes and a better system than we already had. As it turns out, most of the changes he’s been enacting are not the sorts of changes that we the people want, and so far they haven’t made America any greater.

Actual Losses, so far:

  • Loss of International respect
  • Loss of leadership position in Paris agreement
  • Loss of leadership in the G20 summit meeting
  • Cuts to public school funding
  • Gutting of the EPA
  • Severe cuts to the State Department
  • Unreasonable Deportations resulting in the heart-breaking separation of families
  • Cuts in Visas to workers for farmers and laborers for the trades
  • State Department refusal to accept funding for protecting us from Internet interference from ISIS and Russia (Think about that!)
  • Rollbacks on Obama Regulations (Some of these being challenged in court)
    • Offshore Oil Drilling Limitations
    • Clean Power Plan
    • BLM restrictions on drilling on public lands, national parks
    • Clean Water regulations for streams and rivers including Office of Surface Mining Stream Restrictions Act
    • Complete cut of financial aid to Meals on Wheels
    • Cuts to funding for school meals
    • Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule
    • Transgenders no longer allowed to serve militarily (as yet unenforced)
    • Right to Privacy – Public posting of voting and other personal data
    • Reactivation of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines construction

Potential Losses:

  • Freedom of the Press (At least one member of the press has already been arrested, with several being temporarily detained at various events. The press has also been ejected at times from public political events)
  • Freedom of Assembly and Speech (Limiting protests and rallies. **Congress is also trying to pass a bill that would criminalize boycotting or speaking critically of Israel.) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/democrats-join-republicans-in-bill-criminalizing-speech_us_5978bc17e4b0c6616f7ce6d9?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003
  • Freedom of Religion (separation of church and state)
  • Less restriction on police brutality
  • The Right to Vote – You read that right. Mike Huckabee is currently asking congress to repeal the 17th amendment and allow governors to appoint Senators.
  • Even more voter suppression through gerrymandering and limited access in certain districts
  • Loss of healthcare to the most vulnerable (Seniors, Children, Disabled and the poor)
  • Extreme Medicaid Cuts
  • Cuts or privatization of Social Security and Medicare
  • U.S. tax dollars spent building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico
  • Banning of specific cultures, religions and nationalities
  • Rollback of Dodd-Frank Act (Banking regulations, which, among other things, helps prevent poor lending and mortgage management, limits trading allowed by financial institutions, and requires proper ratings for valuations of business ventures.)
  • Loss of Net Neutrality (large corporations like Verizon would “buy” parts of the Internet, then slow speeds or block entire portions of the web unless we pay a usage fee (above the Internet access fees we already pay)

The United States government affects us personally when it attacks health care or taxation and the like, but it also affects communities as a whole. We may not always recognize our place of residence as a community, but it almost always is. Even though farms and ranches are spread out, it’s still a rural, or farming community. Our cities are often divided into smaller hubs which are mixes of residential communities and industrial or mercantile communities.

Communities – In addition to continental divisions of East Coast, West Coast, Southern, and Midwestern, etc., the United States consists of sub-cultures and communities such as Urban, Rural, Suburban, Metropolitan, and Universities plus Religion Based and Ethnic communities. We have large Amish populations in the states surrounding the Great Lakes and the upper Midwest who generally live in their own separate communities. New York has several Jewish communities, while the South is largely populated by Baptists. In Metropolitan areas you may find large Chinese / Vietnamese / Korean communities offering goods and foods from their respective cultures. New York City is famous for having European ethnic groups, as well as Italians, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. Generally, the further west you travel the more likely you are to see less definition and more of a “melting pot” effect, although plenty of areas still have a majority of people of a certain ethnicity, such as Swedish or German or Russian, etc.

We also have economic sectors, like the “Rust Belt” which stretches from Minnesota around the Great Lakes and into New York. This was an area once recognized for its industrialization; manufacturing of cars, trucks, trailers, steel, and other industrial products. The name Rust Belt refers to the deterioration of the manufacturing businesses that either became outdated, or moved to areas that could provide cheaper labor, including overseas. Entire swaths of communities and neighborhoods fade into poverty as regulations are removed or programs are cut.

As we become more and more dependent on automation and technical advances, we see the casualties in our jobs market. Obvious things that once were profitable ventures, but are no longer viable include: Wagon Trains, Stage Coaches, Telegraphs, Horses for travel, Speakeasies, Bi-planes, Steam Boats, Crank Telephones, Analog or Landline Phones, Coal & Oil Heating, Manual Assembly Lines, Hand-Made Textiles, Steno Pools, Gas Station Attendants, to name just a few. These things are no longer manufactured, produced or used in the volumes they once were, and so require fewer, if any, operators and workers. (There is a mule rider that delivers mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, so some jobs hang on longer than others.)

Other changes are bound to follow. Here is a sampling of jobs headed for obsolescence:

  • Auto mechanics
  • Newspaper production staff
  • Department store clerks/staff
  • Bank tellers
  • Furniture craftsmen
  • Tailors
  • Cab/Uber drivers
  • Many in the service industries, like waiters and waitresses or travel agents.
  • Family run farms and dairies are also taking a hit as large corporate entities take over with automated equipment and less need for manual labor.

The government, and specific candidates in particular, might make promises to shore up these businesses just like Mr. Trump did regarding coal mines, but the truth is, no one – not even the government – can force people or businesses to buy goods and products that no longer fill a need. In order to aid workers displaced by a shift in product demand, education and retraining are tools the government (both federal and local) can use to assimilate people into the modern marketplace, but so far that’s being scoffed at by the Republican Congress.

Normally, I try not to influence anyone’s decisions, but prefer to give all the angles and let everyone figure out what works best for them. In this case, though, I’m going to suggest that what we’ve done so far is taking us in the wrong direction. In fact, it’s taking us in the worst possible direction. We need to turn this bus around. Shake hands with your Republican or Democrat neighbor and say, “how can we work together to get ourselves out of this mess?”

Start by picking your battles. Stop competing with your potential allies. In the past, left and right have worked together and they can do it again. Write/text/email your congressmen, whether they are liberal or conservative, and tell them what you want, what you expect! Call them, too. Talk to your neighbors and co-workers, especially if they have different views than you do. Ask questions, but be sure to listen to the answers. I heard a great question the other day; are you listening to respond, or are you listening to understand? Think about that. I’m not suggesting you have to accept their way of thinking, but that you try to understand it from their point of view. Share your point of view but don’t push and don’t expect agreement. Just share. Then look for something that you can agree on – maybe something as simple as working together to get all of your neighbors or all of your work members to register to vote! Maybe there’s someone up for election that you both like… or even that you both think is doing a lousy job. Try combining your efforts to effect a change in that one seat!

And pay attention! Read a bit more, listen to a non-partisan news broadcast. DON’T assume everything you read on Face Book is legit! Research! If it doesn’t sound right, or sounds too good to be true, that’s probably the case. Don’t just wish for change, work for change.

Make your efforts count. Insults and name-calling will NOT help your cause. Bullying isn’t funny. Being rude isn’t funny. Take a deep breath and calm down before you respond with anger. If you can make a real, non-offensive joke, it can ease tensions. If that isn’t your thing then just speak honestly.

I will tell you this: In my opinion, the Tea Party is the worst thing that ever happened to our political system. They have fractured it in almost unrepairable ways. They want NO government except for things like telling us what religion to belong to, and getting us to tithe to them. (They need to try living in Yemen for a while. No government there. How’s that working out?) Secondly, the Republican Party as a whole has stopped representing the people. Now that the Supreme Court has decided that corporations are people, the GOP only represents corporations, and then only the ones who put serious money in their pockets. Yes, Democrats take money, too. It takes money to win elections, sadly. But you can look at where people are getting their money and determine where their votes are going to go. If they are getting money from Unions and Police and Firemen, they are usually going to be helping the needy, the middle class and small business. If they get money from big pharma, or the Koch brothers, or Wall Street they are probably going to support corporate wishes over the middle class. Wealth does not trickle down. That’s never worked and never will, so don’t buy it. Tax cuts do not encourage hiring. (It might work if the hiring was done first, in order to get the tax cuts.) Sure, there are good Republicans out there. I know several. Unfortunately, they aren’t running for office. One last thing… the Republicans want to tear down the Affordable Care Act (let it implode) and then start from scratch. Tell me something. If your roof started leaking, would you tear down your house and rebuild from the bottom up? Or would you fix the roof, and the ceilings too if necessary, and consider it a job well-done?

So again, pay attention, ask questions, share and listen. Don’t think that we can’t lose our rights, because we can! Apathy and complacency are two of the surest ways to lose them. Get involved! Work together! And remember:

WE CAN’T JUST WISH FOR CHANGE, WE HAVE TO WORK FOR CHANGE!

DEFINITION OF TERMS USED IN THIS ARTICLE

Democracy: A: a government by the people; especially: ruled of the majority. B: a government in which the supreme power is vested in [given to] the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy

Capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods [rather than the government] and, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capitalism

Kleptocracy: government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kleptocracy [Klepto is a prefix taken from the Greek, meaning to steal.]

Opportunist: the art, policy or practice of taking advantage of opportunities or circumstances often with little regard for the principles or consequences. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opportunism

Oligarchy: A. a government by the few. [Usually the wealthiest] B. a government in which a small group exercises control for corrupt and selfish purposes. C. an organization under oligarchic control. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oligarchy

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OUR RIGHTS AS AMERICANS; DO THEY STILL HOLD TRUE?

Posted by on Jun 30, 2017 | 0 comments

OUR RIGHTS AS AMERICANS; DO THEY STILL HOLD TRUE?

OUR RIGHTS AS AMERICANS; DO THEY STILL HOLD TRUE?

The Declaration of Independence proclaimed separation from the King of England and contained the following statement: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. – July 4, 1776

The Constitution was ratified over a period of years, but implemented in 1789. The Constitution begins with “We the People…” signifying that our government is to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The first three articles addressed the separation of powers, establishing the Executive branch, the Legislative branch and the Judicial branch which includes the Supreme Court.

The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 and contained the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Seventeen additional amendments have been added over the last 226 years.

Each amendment is important, but today I want to concentrate on the First amendment. It reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This statement addresses two basic elements of our democracy, with the second one being broken into 4 parts:

1. The first element is the freedom of religion. In simple terms, it says that the government shall have no say in accepting or denying any religion, and cannot deny the rights of the people to choose their own religion and means of worship. It also does not declare any religion to be the dominate religion of America. Nor does it require that a citizen must adhere to any religion at all.

2. The second element is the freedom of speech in all its forms. To break this down to the simplest terms, consider a town square, or a large park with a raised platform, tree stump, etc. in it. (No doubt, one could stand on the ground, but then people might not be able to see as well.)

  • Any person can climb up on that platform and speak his mind about any number of things. (Freedom of speech)
  • People may freely gather around to listen, if they want to, and discuss. (Freedom of peaceable assembly)
  • Any reporter may stand there and take notes or even ask questions, of the speaker or of the audience, and may then write or present his findings or interpretation to the public. (Freedom of the press)
  • If the speaker, or any of his listeners decide that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, they can go to the government agency in charge of that particular faction and ask for an explanation and/or change of policy. (Freedom to petition the government)

While these rights are guaranteed in our constitution, there are some other rules of law that need to be considered. The following are legal exceptions to the freedoms listed above:

Slander: The utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation. A false and defamatory oral statement about a person. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/slander

Defamation: The act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/defamation

Libel: A written or oral defamatory or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression. A statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/libel

Notice the key words: false / misrepresentations / unjustly / without just cause. In other words, whatever is being said needs to have some facts to back it up, and cannot be used just to demean another person or entity. This not only holds true for the speaker, but for the press, as well. Libel deals, in particular, with written or published statements that are false.

Ever hear the expression, “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile”? It refers to people who take unreasonable advantage of some privilege, kindness or other allowance bestowed on them. Let’s say you loan someone a dollar. In a day or two, they return, asking to borrow another dollar, and promising to pay back both dollars later. In other words, they are abusing the kindness you showed them. Sometimes, that’s how people are with ‘rights’ as well. Just because we have a right to do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. And even though the constitution gives us the right of free speech, it doesn’t mean a person has the right to say things that will incite a riot or a violent or destructive act.

In today’s world, we have all manner of speech and press. We have bill boards, murals, banners, signs, bumper stickers, newspapers, radio, television, the Internet, mail and even our phones. Some expressions of free speech are hanging on to that definition by a thread… things like sculptures, paintings, sketches, tattoos, and even clothing. Jokes are even considered freedom of speech. There has always been, and probably will always be, arguments over where freedom of speech or expression leaves off and becomes indecency. Indecency is described as morally offensive, especially in a sexual way; also, morally wrong and evil. An extreme example; exposing one’s genitals randomly to the public is not freedom of expression.

Cursing, insulting, degrading, and name-calling are not necessarily against the law, however, in some circumstances they can be. In any event, they will never resolve any issues at all, and only tend to inflame the situation. Verbal bullying usually includes one or more l of those behaviors. With young people, cyber-bullying has driven more than one student to commit suicide. Young people are often insecure, not sure where they fit. Bullying drives them into despair and depression. There have been conversations on how to control this kind of thing without infringing on everyone’s right to free speech. So far, no solution has been reached.

The arguments about freedoms are not particularly partisan arguments, but more a general disagreement about degrees. One group may feel that freedom of speech is being abused when speakers are invited to a closed event, such as a graduation, and that speaker talks against the very ideals and values the school advocates. This happened in May at Notre Dame. But other people at that event felt the speaker should be heard, precisely because of freedom of speech rights. Another situation might be during a protest. Most people agree that protesting is part of the democratic process and signs and messages shouldn’t be censored. But the degree of incendiary shouts and slogans becomes a problem. As in most large groups, a small percentage of participants will usually get carried away and step beyond the proverbial line. Sometimes it’s verbal, where frustrations boil over and words become hate-filled or racially charged. Is there a place where the right to free speech should not include the right to ridicule and belittle others? Or should freedom of speech extend into dangerous behaviors like setting bonfires, or throwing objects at each other? If I say, “we must fight for this cause!” does that mean to literally fight, with fists or weapons? Should a crush of protestors charge into a school or business, disregarding the safety of people inside? For that matter, should protesting be our first method of resistance or complaint?

On one hand, we don’t want to over-regulate, as each situation differs from the next. We shouldn’t ban all protests because one protest became a riot. But on the other hand, we also can’t condone riots and looting, property damage and vandalism. Where do we draw the line between the rights of freedom and the human rights of safety for property and self? I would love to hear the thoughts, ideas, or concerns of my readers on this!

The last concern I want to address is freedom of religion. This is a tough topic, because many of us look at religion as a moral standard. There are groups and cults who claim religion, but are not about religion in the accepted definition. A religion is a cultural belief system that is intended to lead its followers in a defined lifestyle, and generally adheres to some form of worship for some form of God. It is possible to be religious without belonging to a religion – that is, to have a belief in a Superior Being and follow the tenents of Biblical law, such as the 10 commandments or the golden rule.

As in most things in life, there are degrees of religious belief and behavior. The range is wide, from non-believers (atheists) to skeptics (agnostics), from devout to zealots. And there are around 5,000 religions (or more accurately, religious sects) to choose from, world-wide. Currently, many Americans want to identify as a Christian nation. But the truth is, there are a variety of Christian denominations, and they don’t always see eye to eye, either. Overall, the United States has approximately 50 active religions. A recent ABC poll found that 13% of Americans claim no religion. 83% claim Christianity, including Catholics, Protestants (of whom, 19% are non-affiliated with a particular denomination), Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. 4% stated other, including Judaism, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhism. However, this is an ever-changing dynamic. For more than 200 years we’ve been able to live together on this continent and accept each other. Each era brought some bias regarding one religion or another, but for the most part, we’ve adapted.

The current concern is about Muslims or the religion of Islam. This has arisen from the fear of terrorism and the attack on America in 2001 from terrorists claiming to embrace “radical Islam.” However, terrorism is not a religious tenent. We have had so-called Christian wars as well, but they, too, had little or nothing to do with religion. Wars are about money, property, greed and power. Our constitution gives complete freedom of religion. That includes Muslims. The worry over “Sharia Law”, which is taught in the Qu’ran, is much like laws in our Christian Bible from the Old Testament, where it says “an eye for an eye”, and that it is okay to kill your neighbor if he looks at your wife. You were also supposed to take your wife to a priest if she was pregnant and you suspected she had cheated on you. He would have her drink poison, and if it killed her and her baby, it was determined that she had indeed cheated. If, however, she and the baby survived, it indicated that she had remained faithful. The point here is that Sharia law is only a part of the Islamic teachings, and many Muslims no longer follow Sharia law to a point of killings or physical harm. If they do, they are subject to the laws of our government in the same way as you would be if someone poked your eye out and you went back and poked his eye out for revenge. Certainly, the individual states are struggling with how to set up laws that are fair to Americans while allowing as much religious freedom as possible. In the future, it may become necessary to make a federal law, or even an amendment to the constitution to address Sharia law while adhering to our constitutional right to freedom of religion. It is important to note that terrorism of any kind, for any reason, is not tolerated in the United States of America.

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ARE POLITICIANS TODAY IN TOUCH WITH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE?

Posted by on May 26, 2017 | 0 comments

ARE POLITICIANS TODAY IN TOUCH WITH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE?

ARE POLITICANS TODAY IN TOUCH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

The question: Do our current leaders and candidates for either political party understand the lifestyles and needs of the citizens of America today?

Keep in mind the old saying: You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time – John Lydgate (poet)

First, there are the party line voters who will only vote for their party-of-choice candidates. With Republicans, this is because their party represents their values regarding a number of things, but primarily concerns over limited taxation, smaller, less restrictive government, religious/family values, second amendment (gun) rights, and anti-abortion stances. With Democrats, it’s because they value individual rights and freedoms, progressive actions to aid those less fortunate, climate and ecological concerns, and separation of church and state. Most of the people in the party line voting groups see no acceptable alternative path to the protection of their values and beliefs than the offerings of their party. Unless the candidates check the boxes of these talking points, party liners rarely consider anyone else.

This article is about the other voters who will look at the candidates and decide how to vote on an individual basis. I don’t want to single out Donald Trump here. These descriptions also fit supporters of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, etc. I start with Mr. Trump because he currently bears the title of President.

Here’s the deal with Donald Trump. He’s not in touch with the American people; he’s in touch with a segment of the American people… or possibly two segments. Let me make this clear: Everyone who supported Donald Trump is not bad, evil, racist, unschooled, or otherwise lacking in character. . Although Mr. Trump had no political experience whatsoever, his promises excited the people most hurt by the Recession and slow recovery because he promised JOBS and a WALL to keep the immigrants out.

Unfortunately, he’s in touch with the bigots, haters, white supremacists and conspiracy theorists because he recognizes them and plays to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean he adheres to their beliefs, or that he’s being honest with them. He tells them what they want to hear because they are the easiest groups to rally. They will generally get behind anyone who appears to support their cause(s). Most of the people in this culture group have been raised since babies to believe the things they stand for today. You’re not likely to be able to change their minds; they must look for someone who agrees with (or appears to agree with) what they see as the ultimate truth.

There’s a second group that are not necessarily biased or hateful, but are more susceptible to a type of conditioning, or brainwashing. They have legitimate gripes with the system as it affects them today, and they WANT to believe there is a simple solution, if only someone can come up with it. These are the people with the moral fiber to recognize Mr. Trump’s flaws, but still they excuse him, or ignore what they see because they want something –anything- different, that promises to make their lives better. Not coincidentally, these are often the same people who get caught up in pyramid schemes and fall for phone scams, and in worse cases, get involved with cults. (Remember Jonestown? Over 900 people “drank the kool-aid.”) To understand Mr. Trump’s strategy, you don’t need to take my word for it. You can read his book, ‘The Art of the Deal’. He explains in detail how he works his investors to get what he wants.

Psychiatrists and psychologists say that there are also certain personalities that, once they have reached a conclusion about something, are beyond stubborn. They may think things over and analyze it to the best of their ability, but when they feel they have determined the correct answer, no amount of cajoling or persuasive argument will change their minds, including pictures, video, audio statements, or being present as events unfold. Instead, they make excuses for what they saw/heard. One explanation of this phenomena is called the Dunning-Kruger effect which is discussed in the magazine, Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mind-in-the-machine/201609/the-psychology-behind-donald-trumps-unwavering-support . Basically, the premise is that some people are not able to consciously realize whether they are good at something or not. (In this case, reasoning.) They feel they have done their best, and that justifies whatever conclusion they reach. The next natural step is to conclude that other arguments are wrong.

Bernie Sanders had a grip on a large portion of the democratic voters as well as independents, but he was most beloved by college students and millennials in general. His main pitch was free college for everyone, and reduced payments or forgiven debt for college tuition of graduates. He also espoused single-payer medical insurance for all, and pronounced himself a “social democrat”. (Single payer insurance would be like Medicare – everyone having the same coverage, as it would be financed by a tax like Medicare.) He was in touch with the “flower children” of the 21st century. He was also critical of Wall Street, although his thoughts on that were a bit shaky. He wanted to break up the big banks, deemed “too big to fail” but didn’t really have a plan to do that.

Foreign policy was not his strong suit. Being of Jewish faith, he was current on issues involving Palestine and Israel, but less involved with the rest of the middle-east, or China, or foreign trade with anyone. He promised to pull out of the TPP agreement, but was not alone on that issue, as Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton also agreed to abandon the TPP.

Mr. Sanders ran on the democratic ticket, but has been an independent in his career with the Senate. His passion and sincerity drew large, enthusiastic crowds. He was the opposite of Trump as the other candidate for change. There have been allegations to the effect that the Democratic National Committee undermined his campaign because they preferred Hillary Clinton. Eventually, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC, was forced to resign as a result of emails leaked that showed intent on the part of the DNC to smear Bernie Sanders’ name. In the end, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary with 16.8 million votes to 13.2 million votes for Bernie Sanders. Many people thought Sanders would have beaten Trump, and that debate still goes on today. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/was-the-democratic-primary-a-close-call-or-a-landslide/

 

Hillary Clinton had strong support from the establishment democrats. Ironically, this may have been her biggest downfall. A lot of people blamed the establishment for the lack of accomplishments to help the little guy. It was well-known that congress had been largely ineffective for a decade or more. But instead of cleaning house there (pardon the pun), they looked to the presidential candidates for the answer.

She also had two other major hurdles to overcome. For years the Clinton name had been dogged by conspiracy theories. There were questions regarding her involvement with the Whitewater scandal, involving real estate and banking dealings with the Clintons back in the 1990s. The Clintons were never prosecuted, but others were. Some felt that justice was never served. Then there were those who went further than insinuating the Clintons may have paid off people to “take the fall.” Getting away with murder became a literal accusation as unfounded conspiracy theories erupted that people who crossed the Clintons wound up dead. Other theories through the years would constitute a full article by themselves. Suffice to say, the Clinton Haters worked overtime. She was also investigated 9 times regarding the horrible terrorist attack against the U.S. staff in Benghazi. Nothing was ever found that indicated Secretary of State Clinton was at fault. Then there was the “email scandal.” This is where she had a private email server installed at her residence that she used to conduct state department business on. Actually, when she installed it, there was no regulation not to do so. Her intent was to avoid hacks into the government servers by foreign countries, which were already happening. The investigation into that was ongoing throughout her whole campaign, with no prosecutable evidence found.

Her other big problem was her inability to connect with the average citizen. Hillary labored for children’s causes, but couldn’t seem to attract the college-aged crowds or the working poor. Her demeanor was more business-like, and constituents didn’t warm to her easily. She tried town halls and meetings with some success, but the media only followed a few, and then latched onto the blustery Trump, so the impact of her attempts to reach out to everyday people got lost in the race for television ratings. The middle class felt abandoned, and struggled with the dilemma, Trump vs. Clinton. Neither seemed satisfactory to them, and many either opted for third parties, or ended up not voting at all. Although they may have liked President Obama, and Clinton promised to carry on his legacy, they didn’t trust her to do that.

Third party candidates did not have a clear enough message, or strong enough platforms to sway many voters. For the most part, their voter turnouts were in the single digits, but taking away from the other candidates.

All candidates had to address the need for more jobs. The subject swirled around the ideas that trade was the cause of job losses, or that immigrants had stolen all the jobs, or that large companies have moved their bases of production to countries like Thailand, China, Mexico, Indonesia and India because the labor there is much cheaper.

No one can argue that last fact. There is, however, a humanitarian aspect to consider. A few companies have berated the low pay and long hours, not to mention lack of child labor laws in foreign countries, as being inhumane and have refused to go in that direction.

It remains to be seen how much the immigration policies affect jobs. A few years ago, when there was a crack-down on migrant workers in the south, farmers ended up losing large amounts of their crops because with the workers carted off, no one else would do the hard work of harvesting the fruits and vegetables, and other commodities (cotton, tobacco, and so on) raised by the farmers. This will be retested now, as the deportation of immigrants has ramped up again, under Trump.

Trade is a much trickier issue: It reaches into the category of economics, and there are arguments galore, on the benefits of tariffs, taxes, penalties and so forth that come up when trade is discussed. This is one of the most contentious topics our politicians have to face. Something that looks good on paper may not work in practice. Our trading partners throughout the world are invaluable in many ways, including sales we make to them, as well as jobs provided in the United States when they do manufacturing here.

It’s important to note here that the president does not control any of these factors. He or she may negotiate deals with foreign countries, but those deals still have to be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The president cannot pass laws on his own. He can only make certain changes, via Executive Orders, to existing laws. The president can have some influence over the congress, and can present bills for review that may then be considered adopted, but he alone cannot make a new law or repeal an existing law. THIS is where the voters generally go wrong. When they are unhappy with jobs, the economy, civil rights, or any number of things, they should be listening to their Senators’ and Representatives’ positions. Voters should ask questions – lots of questions!

More often than not, it is these members of congress who are not in touch with ordinary Americans. Some of them are not even forthright with the information they give their constituents. But even the ones who are honestly trying to give fair representation frequently have a skewed vision regarding the lives of the people they represent. They live a different lifestyle, and run in different circles. They aren’t out and about in the neighborhoods of the average working man or woman and their families. They make enough money that they don’t have to worry about getting good child-care while they work. If they are unfortunate enough to have someone in their family with a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes, they have good insurance, paid for in large part by our tax dollars. They live in nice neighborhoods that don’t have high crime rates, and their children go to the best school districts, or to private schools. None of these things, in themselves, are bad. The problem comes as our representatives forget that we don’t all live like that. We can’t all live like that. Most middle-class and lower working-class people are teachers, nurses, technicians, truck drivers, construction workers, store clerks, waiters or waitresses, sales reps, or run a small business.

The national average wage in the United States in 2015 was $48,098.63. https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/AWI.html That amounts to $924.97 a week, before taxes. Taxes vary a great deal, especially state taxes, but a fair average for the middle class is currently at around 20%, so that means their take-home averages around $740 a week. That works out to around $3206 a month. Sounds okay, right? Well, let’s use round conservative numbers and see: $1400 rent or mortgage, $700 health insurance, $500 utilities, and that leaves $600 for:

  • food
  • clothes and shoes
  • medical co-pays
  • medical expenses not covered by insurance (glasses, braces, etc.)
  • car payments/repairs
  • car insurance and tags
  • gasoline
  • renters/homeowner’s insurance
  • child care
  • school supplies
  • haircuts
  • birthday and holiday gifts

We haven’t even touched upon household repairs, like a new hot water heater, or roof repair or a broken window. What if you need to hire an attorney for some reason, or make an emergency trip because of an illness or death in the family? And vacation – forget that! Savings – not likely! Hopefully no one in the family gets a terrible disease requiring medication in the thousands of dollars.

Now, consider that since we used an average, some people make more and are better off, but the majority make less and are worse off. We say that because to get an average, you also factor in the wealthy. If you factored out the wealthy, the national average would drop significantly. The costs wouldn’t drop. Just the wages.

This is what our representatives in Washington don’t see. Even our state legislatures don’t always see it. How can we get their attention? By not being complacent. Make our voices heard at town halls, write letters to the editor of our newspapers, write our reps and senators, and most of all – vote them out if they don’t do their jobs!

Invite candidates to a mixed venue of voters with liberal and conservative needs. See if they can find compromise. Social media is also a good outlet as long as we remember to fact-check the articles we read, and do not post anything that is doubtful or known to be incorrect. That just does more harm because people learn not to trust us.

I think the answer to the original question is “No, our current leaders and candidates for either political party do not understand the lifestyles and needs of the citizens of America today.”

What do you think?

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WE NEED FULL CREDIT GOVERNMENT CLASSES in HIGH SCHOOL

Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 | 0 comments

WE NEED FULL CREDIT GOVERNMENT CLASSES in HIGH SCHOOL

WE NEED FULL CREDIT GOVERNMENT CLASSES IN HIGH SCHOOL

(Junior/Senior year)

As adults, we don’t know how to fit political information into our schedules. If we haven’t gained political education before we graduate, we aren’t likely to for several more years. We glance at the news to catch the weather, or a sports score, but seldom do we sit down to watch the entire broadcast. Even worse, we spend less time listening to our political figures when they speak at a State of the State, or State of the Union Address, for instance. Even people who say they get their news online often read only the headline and a paragraph or two. Practically speaking, we elect our leaders and our representatives based on a picture, a few sentences we’ve randomly heard them speak, and a well-written biographical paragraph by a paid marketer. Some voters watch for the political ads and decide by what they see there, not realizing that these are nothing but mini-commercials by marketing strategists, selling you their product. Rarely do we think to look up an incumbent’s voting record or find out what their previous jobs were and what their business reputation was. The truth is, unless we take courses in college related to the political arena, most of us know very little about our government and how it operates. Once we leave high school, our lives become a whole new world of responsibilities with a job, and/or college classes. Many marry and begin families which brings in a whole new dimension of responsibility. We now have bills to pay, and of course we want a social life. We need a car, or a place to live… and on and on. High school prepares us for this new world with information that helps us make good choices, but does it prepare us to improve our lives and our worlds through the power of the vote?

Just about everyone knows who the president of the country is, even if they didn’t vote. However, it’s surprising how many don’t even know who the vice president is, let alone who their senators and congressional representatives are. Even locally, 20-somethings to 40-somethings often don’t know who is representing them in their state legislature, or who the governor is, or the mayor of their own city, let alone their council members. This is somewhat understandable, given that many families have both parents working, or are single-parent households. With children, there are doctor appointments, babysitters to schedule, laundry, meals, constant housecleaning, and general bill-paying. Then comes school registrations, parent-teacher meetings, sports, holiday shows, birthday parties and other parent-child activities… all while working a full-time job and trying to have some family time. Whew!

So the last year or two of high school (before all that starts) is the best time to teach some life skills that can lead to a better future for the student as he/she becomes an adult. First, we need to acknowledge that History is not the same as Civics, and a class in Government is completely different than either one.

HISTORY is mostly about the names of Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Tribal Chiefs, Sheiks, Dictators and a few famous U. S. patriots and the dates of their birth, death, and times in power. It also focuses on wars and specific battles throughout the years.

CIVICS class is centered around the rights of citizens, mainly in the United States, and sometimes broken down to the state level. The Constitution is usually a part of this curriculum. Some voter information is usually included. It is an important course but it doesn’t teach much about how the government functions.

GOVERNMENT class is the study of how governments run, particularly in the United States. Besides learning about pacts and treaties and how they come to be, this course takes into account how the three branches of our federal government work (and the checks and balances this provides), and describes how policies and laws are made. Ideally, there is some overlap between government class and civics class, but one does not take the place of the other.

Today, civics classes are required as early as 7th grade. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a single class I had when I was 12. Boys were discovering girls, and girls were discovering that boys were noticing them. Sports were being introduced on a competitive level. I remember that elective classes were added to the curriculum, and most of us chose something that seemed like fun; possibly shop or home economics (back in those days), or music, art, or typing.

The civics classes in school today are usually half-credit classes, paired with some kind of local government class. While this is better than nothing, the message is sent that the workings of government really aren’t very important to the average citizen. The amount of time allotted doesn’t allow for the setting up of a mock government and studying the variety of issues our three main branches face. How can we expect our next generation to be inspired to become involved if they don’t even know how it works? How can they know how to vote if they don’t even know that senators and representatives can write and submit bills, but both the house and the senate must approve them and the president must sign them before they become law? (Yes, the president has a veto power which allows him to keep a bill from becoming law, but the veto can be overwritten if it goes back to congress and passes both the senate and house of representatives by 2/3 majority in each.) Instead, we believe a president can actually change the law at will, without understanding that he can only do that with the help of congress. In fact, most presidential candidates don’t even know the full extent of their limitations until they begin receiving briefings. (Many people also confuse Executive Orders with Laws. Executive Orders can only pertain to laws that are currently in existence.)

And then of course, any new laws (or orders) have to be legal. That is, laws cannot be made that go against the Constitution. Our judicial system is set up to prevent that from happening. There are legal ways to circumvent that, such as adding a constitutional amendment – something that is very difficult and requires a great deal of work in order to reach an agreement which will win the necessary backing of the individual states. First a proposal must be developed and must pass both branches of congress by 2/3 majority of each branch. Then the bill must be sent to the states where their legislatures must agree, by simple majority, to the amendment. Three quarters of all states must approve of the amendment. The president cannot veto any step of this process. ***For more on amendments, see the end of this article.

Did you know all this? More importantly, did you know all this the first dozen or so times that you voted?

Shouldn’t our future voters and leaders know that federal judges are appointed for life – not only the Supreme Court? Shouldn’t our newest voters understand that there is a hierarchy to the court system?

http://www.iitcr.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/us-court-system.png

http://www.iitcr.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/us-court-system.png

Shouldn’t our schools teach that even the executive branch of the government must meet the standards of the Constitution, and that our congress and judicial systems may be called on to determine if any new law or regulation is constitutional? Wouldn’t all this stick in their minds more, the closer they got to voting age?

Isn’t it up to us to talk to our state legislators, boards of education, and our school districts to try to encourage more involvement for our students so they can go into the world armed with the best information they can get? Wouldn’t we have a better world if the youngest adults were as informed as we’ve become after raising our families and then finally finding the time to actually learn about the amazing way our forefathers set up our democracy?

While researching data, I found that most requirement information is only current through 2013, so some states may have modified their requirements in either direction during the last 4 years. At this website, I noticed some states had actually dropped government from their requirements. Reference for graduation requirements Info: http://ecs.force.com/mbdata/mbprofall?Rep=HS01

According to the referenced website, only 4 states and the District of Columbia show a full credit required for U.S. Government – Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, and Nevada.

Fifteen others show Government at a full credit, but mixed with other subjects such as history or civics.

Nine states show no Government requirement at all – Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The other 22 states require only ½ credit, sometimes mixed in with other subjects such as local government or history, and of these, some offer the classes as early as 7th grade.

In early 2017, several states reviewed and have changed, or are considering changing requirements for graduation. You can look up your local Board of Education to find requirements and other graduation information. If you would like to see the next generation graduate as a better informed and more aware group of young adults, you can begin with your local school board. Let them know what you want!

**** A final consideration might be to require that all students pass a citizenship test prior to graduation. Why do we expect new U.S. citizens to know more about how our government works than the young people that have gone to school here their entire lives?

There are currently many petitions and proposals circulating for a 28th amendment. A few are:

  • Citizens United (campaign funding)
  • Time limits on congressional and senate votes for appointed positions such as the Supreme Court.
  • Social Security and healthcare as a right.
  • Term limits for members of the House and Senate.
  • More recently, limitations and requirements pertaining directly to the president, such as release of tax forms, medical records, and divestiture of business conflicts are being discussed.
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CREATIVE CREATION of JOBS

Posted by on Apr 1, 2017 | 0 comments

CREATIVE CREATION of JOBS

CREATIVE CREATION of JOBS

The other evening I happened to run into a cousin of mine as I was cruising through some memes on Face Book. The meme we connected on questioned how the current congress is so willing to follow Christian beliefs by banning abortion and even birth control, but wants to eliminate help with healthcare for pregnant women or pediatric care for their children. The question; where is the help for the poor and needy, as the Christian bible promotes.

That is not what this article is about. But that topic sparked a good conversation and we found ourselves looking at a pretty interesting blend of left and right thinking.

Obviously, we have some social problems in the United States, and both liberals and conservatives recognize them. We have too many people on unemployment, on welfare, and receiving other services because they can’t find work, or work that pays enough to live on. We have recently come through a pretty steep recession, and there are some people who still haven’t been able to reestablish themselves in the work force. But we are too ready to lump everyone in the same category… if you are receiving assistance, you must be lazy, scamming the system, or addicted to something. Somehow, reducing the assistance programs and Medicaid – which is the medical safety net for lower income citizens – will force these people to go out and get jobs? Pretend you are somehow cast into one of these following situations.

Here are just a few reasons people are homeless, and/or can’t get jobs.

  • To rent an apartment, you need a reference from your last residence. If your home was foreclosed on, you won’t have a reference. You must pass a credit check. You must also have a job, or provable income.
  • To get a job, you must have a residence and a phone. Living in a car, or even a camper is not considered a residence. Neither is crashing on your friends’ couches… and P.O. Boxes won’t cut it. Many jobs also require a decent credit score. (Contrary to current belief, some people don’t have phones, either.)
  • Some people have health problems that prevent them from working. These can swing from debilitating diseases like Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Heart Failure… to things that require money or insurance to fix, such as bad teeth, body odor issues not related to cleanliness, poor eyesight, loss of hearing, back injuries, etc.
  • Other problems that hinder finding jobs include transportation (buses don’t run everywhere), child care needs, lack of proper attire, and, of course, experience or education. The restaurant looking for a cook isn’t interested in how good of a mechanic you are. Even having a great resume can be a hindrance if you’re looking beneath your experience level. Call centers won’t hire you if you used to manage a call center, unless they’re looking for a manager, because they assume you will leave as soon as you get something better. (Probably true, but you see the problem.)

So let’s assume you get some assistance, and you solve the above problems for the moment. How do you find a job? Well, on the computer, of course. Oh wait, you don’t have one? Well, there is the library, but you will need an email address to even get a response. If you have a working phone, you can try to use that to check the Boards for help wanted, and you can add that needed email address (some are free). But what if there just aren’t any jobs that you’re qualified to do in your town. In many areas, assistance is available only for a limited time, and you must be looking for work. When the time is up – as little as one year in some places – you just stop getting aid.

This is where my cousin had some good ideas. Jobs could be created for people in these situations, and some of them might even end up helping others in that problem list above. Let me explain. Jobs could be created for people who are desperately seeking work. I’m going to make a list of jobs that almost anyone could do, and that don’t require a lot of training. Many of them are jobs currently being done by volunteers, but if local governments could fund some projects, people could be paid for jobs and climb out of their homelessness and poverty. In the long run, it would be cheaper than welfare and other assistance programs. It could even provide experience for potentially permanent jobs and careers.

  • Many retired people own homes but can’t keep up their yards, or can’t afford repairs to keep the home safe and weatherproof. If they could call a community service and ask for yardwork or minor home repairs, someone could be assigned to go do that job and bring back a signed approval when the work was completed – at no cost to the elderly.
  • This same service could send hospital helpers out to read to patients, to help feed them, and to work in volunteer positions in the hospital – giving directions, looking up patient rooms, connecting incoming calls, shuttling visitors to and from their cars, and the like – at no cost to the hospital.
  • Those who are handy in the trades could be “hired” to build Tiny Homes. Old mobile home parks could be converted into places for the Tiny Homes. (See example pictures below. This is NOT a promotional article. ) People working in the program but not having a home could apply to rent one of these living spaces at a discounted rate, and now they have an address! These homes would remain the property of the city/parish/county, etc., and could possibly be a tax write-off for the agency.

C:\Users\JulieB\Documents\Writing-Blogs and Articles\Pictures\th.jpg C:\Users\JulieB\Documents\Writing-Blogs and Articles\Pictures\th[5].jpg

  • Child care centers could be set up near business districts and staffed by parents who have their own children to care for, but who could easily help care for others, too, until they finished a GED program, or a college class, or found an opening for their preferred type of work, or retired people needing to add a bit of additional income to their budget could help feed and rock infants, and prepare lunches for the little ones – at no cost to the working parents.
  • Even minor street and sidewalk repairs or park maintenance could be done in smaller communities that don’t have regular maintenance contracts.
  • Workers could repair school playground equipment, fix or build desks, and keep the school grounds clean.
  • Shelters and soup kitchens often utilize volunteers, but this is also work that job-seekers could do to earn enough money to buy a phone, get a used car, and purchase some new shoes and clothing.

Of course, for most of these jobs, a background check would be needed. Tools might have to be provided, and if the job involved a team, transportation might be required. Sometimes, a person might need special insurance, if they had to drive, for instance. In the scheme of things, though, the developmental benefits received by everyone would far outweigh the costs incurred in setting up and running such a community service. Another huge benefit; it has been proven that job-seekers will be hired sooner if they are already working.

Meanwhile, some of the work could count towards new glasses, or a hearing aid, or dental work…things to help people present well for interviews. These needs might have to be provided prior to working, but could be placed on a “balance forward” jobs projection.

Of course, standard assistance programs will continue for those physically unable to work, such as the elderly and the very ill or injured. But some retired people, and even some who are sick or disabled might be able to do some work from home, such as computer data entry, or web design, or maybe just selling things on E-Bay for others in the work program.

Finally, how do we finance and maintain such a program? Well, we could make it a component of the assistance program that everyone who is healthy enough must either be attending classes for a GED, or must work a certain amount of hours per week unless going on verifiable job interviews. Instead of “collecting” welfare checks, they would receive their check for working – not to be lower than the normal welfare check after taxes. (Pay could go higher for additional hours, or supervisory work, but no lower.) In other words, the budgeted monies for welfare would be used as incentive. This work could be put on a resume, and would be eligible for a tax return for their reported income. Besides gaining income and experience, they gain pride in their work and a sense of worth that they will never attain by getting a welfare check.

Does this solve every problem? Of course not. What is does it provide a starting point for helping people learn to help themselves. For instance, if someone dropped out of school, getting a GED is going to be a minimal requirement, and should be part of this program. Also, there would have to be a minimum amount of hours worked per week… perhaps 30? Minimum wage would not apply, as this would be a temporary program designed to motivate welfare-dependent families to get back on track. This is not designed to be a full-time permanent job, but rather a way to get off assistance programs and develop skills that might lead to a new way of thinking, and even a new vocation. Do you think your local city council or mayor might be interested in something like this? What about your county supervisors?

Let’s hear your thoughts!

More information on tiny homes:

http://www.goodshomedesign.com/tiny-house-for-under-1000/

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POLITICS and OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Posted by on Mar 10, 2017 | 1 comment

POLITICS and OUR RELATIONSHIPS

 

POLITICS and OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Let me ask one question: Have you ever met someone – at work, at a party, or by some other connection and found you were really enjoying this new person? Maybe they had a sense of humor that you appreciated. Maybe they were well-versed on a subject that interested you. Possibly you had common interests such as sports, cars, music, movies, hobbies, etc. Or you may have just seen them doing something kind for someone else and it touched your heart. So it looks like you have a new, friendly relationship and then WHAM! Politics!  Did they just say they liked Obama, Clinton, Sanders…or Trump, Rubio, Cruz…? It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. Suddenly, you see them in a different light… not your kind of person at all! Hmmm, what a shame. I wonder how it is that all those positives things you saw a few minutes earlier no long have any value.

Sadly, this is how things seem to go these days. Politics has always been a tricky subject, often avoided in order to keep the peace. But this year in particular, it’s not only influencing first opinions, and snap judgements about others in general, but it’s breaking up long-standing friendships and even families in some cases.

I’m not going to discuss the parties, or the issues, or any particular politician. Instead, I think we need to take a look at what our values are, and why we let our political leanings influence the rest of our lives, especially our relationships.

First, let’s look at the basic definitions for the following categories we like to use to label ourselves.

LIBERAL:

Believing that government should be active in supporting social or political change; not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted. Also: broad-minded, not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberal Sometimes referred to as Progressive.

CONSERVATIVE:

Tending or disposed to maintain existing views; marked by moderation or caution; tending to favor established ideas, conditions or institutions. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conservative Sometimes referred to as Traditionalist.

I have to include Centrist, as you will see, because Centrists overlap Liberals and Conservatives. Remember, we’re going to discuss categories, not parties.

CENTRIST:

A person whose political views are not extreme; a person whose beliefs fall between those of liberals and conservatives. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/centrist Sometimes referred to as Moderate.

There are a number of other categories, such as Libertarian, Green, Constitutional, and Independent, as well as combinations of all of these, and several other limited groups often linked with religious organizations. For the sake of this conversation, I’ll stick to the three I’ve defined, as they represent the majority of citizens in the United States. (However, the number of Independents are increasing, politically, and may soon join the parties eligible for debates and primaries.)

It seems in today’s world we are defining our relationships by how they vote, who they support, and what causes they defend. Although this might be a good thing to consider as we look at the overall picture presented by a person, does a certain political view really reflect the substance of anyone? In fact, might we be missing an opportunity to expand our own thoughts and views – or is that what we’re afraid of?

Psychologists tell us that it’s normal to develop opinions, and once formed, it’s common to avoid discussions or information that might rebut what we’ve come to believe. This is not to say we should do this, but only that it’s common. On the contrary, it’s much healthier to consider other opinions on a regular basis. For one thing, situations change. Something that was true at one time might not be true at a later date. Example: For decades it was common knowledge that cars should have oil changes around every 3000 miles. In the last few years however, due to new technology, the current recommendation is somewhere between 5000 and 10,000 miles.

Also, over time, something understood as fact can be invalidated. The best example I can think of to illustrate that point is, for centuries the world was considered to be flat. People assumed that if one sailed to the edge, they would fall off. Magellan set off one day to try to find a route to the East Indies. Although he died in the Philippines, his expedition continued, and the circumnavigation was completed by Juan Sebastian Elcono and 17 other original crew members. We now know the world is round. We also now know that Magellan did not truly discover that the world was round, but his crewman, Elcono, did. And this is another example of how “truth” changes – misinformation. (I was taught in school that Magellan was the first person to sail around the world.)

In the world of politics, many issues change by degrees:

  • Common-law marriages are recognized in some states, but not in others. Of those that do, the requirements vary from 3 to 10 years of cohabitation.
  • The Federal government still has marijuana on its list of illegal drugs, yet several states now allow medicinal use of marijuana, and some, such as Alaska and Colorado, allow for recreational use as well.
  • Twenty-eight states have tried, or use, a 3-strikes program for repeat criminals, beginning in 1952 (Texas). In the 1990s, other states joined in, as well as the Federal government. https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1032-sentencing-enhancement-three-strikes-law

The third strike mandates a much longer sentence, up to and including life. Many of these laws have since been modified to allow courts some latitude for circumstances, and do not include traffic tickets or other misdemeanors, while juveniles are generally exempt. Most states now use the law mainly for violent criminals. Some people find this cruel and unusual punishment, but others think habitual criminals need to be permanently locked up. By varying degrees, the statistics show some programs are more successful than others, with the most current findings showing that these programs work best when combined with education and counseling.

These are just a very few examples of political issues that have degrees of use, and supply plenty of fodder for debate.

This chart shows the overlap seen in a wide variety of topics that often arise in political discussions. There is a trend to be found, based on polling questions derived from a variety of news articles and exit polls from before the November 8th election until the inauguration on January 20, 2017.

Blue = Liberal     Purple = Centrist     Red = Conservative

You can see where the issues overlap to some degree. In other words, there are some conservatives who believe in reasonable gun control, with some liberals embracing the pro-life position, etc.

Centrists do not necessarily agree on all these topics, but generally there is a generous amount of carry-over from both sides with centrists/moderates. Remember, we aren’t talking about politicians, just about us; the general population.

The point here is to look at how things often overlap and flow into groups considered “the other side.” There is a blending, if you will, of thoughts, ideas and feelings towards these and many other issues. This is how democracy is intended to work. The majority is supposed to rule, and this is what we vote for when we elect our representatives. Tempers flare, (and rightfully so) when we see that our representation is lacking. As new information comes to light, representatives need to take stock of what their constituents really want.

We can help by writing, emailing, or calling the offices of our Senators and House Representatives. We can even contact our state legislature to enlist their help. We can be clear and concise, stating what we oppose and what we support. It’s recommended to leave a name and zip code. What we need to avoid is yelling, name calling and general rudeness. In a town hall setting, chanting may show enthusiasm, but will rarely have the effect you want. If you must do a chant, keep it clean and short. (“Do your job” was rather inspiring last week.)

So back to friends, family…and also consider the people online that we interact with, too. Maybe on Face Book, or maybe in a comments section after an article, whatever the occasion, make your point, but remember that ALL CAPS is considered yelling. Name-calling is juvenile, and insulting someone will never, ever be helpful. When referring to “Obumer” or “Drumf” (Trump’s actual ancestral name, but used as a slur) it comes across as childish, and is completely inappropriate. Remember too, rarely is one side ever 100% correct. It’s never a bad idea to verify information, whether you’re receiving it or passing it on. With your family or friends, refrain from derogatory remarks such as, “Man, how can you be so stupid?” or “I thought you were smarter than that.” And keep to the subject… never let a political discussion deteriorate into an all out rant about each other’s flaws.

Think about it this way; if you are arguing with your spouse or your friend, or your co-worker and they call you a name, are you likely to consider what they’re saying? I know I’m not. A friend of mine once mentioned that he’d had a spat with his wife. I asked what happened and he said, “I don’t even remember what the argument was about. I just remember that she called me a bastard and it really stung.”

Don’t let anger and frustration control an exchange of ideas. Try remembering things you really do like about this person, and change the subject if there is no true exchange of information or thoughtful opinion, or if negative speech creeps in. The best discussion you can have is between two or more people with differing ideas who are all willing to consider the other points of view. Most of all remember, our thoughts or beliefs may not overlap in all areas, but if given a chance, they will almost always overlap in some area, and to some degree!

Other information regarding the 3-strikes laws was found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-strikes_law

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NEWS – REAL OR FAKE?

Posted by on Jan 14, 2017 | 2 comments

NEWS – REAL OR FAKE?

NEWS – REAL OR FAKE?

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance – George Bernard Shaw

I heard a great line the other day. Jimmy Kimmel was talking about hearing someone say the people have a right to make up their own minds when hearing the facts of a news report. His question; “How is that possible? Facts are facts. No one can make up their own facts!” Exactly! No matter what one thinks, it doesn’t change the facts.

Freedom of the press is extremely important. Without it, our country could easily be taken over by a dictator or tyrant. We would have no way of knowing what was actually being done in our Capital, or even in the lower governments of state or city. We wouldn’t know the true statistics regarding such things as health, education, homelessness, gun deaths, or police actions. Property values could be devalued with no explanation, or increased on a whim. Taxes could be raised with no accounting for their expenditure. The state of the economy could be manipulated to give false feelings of security (or fear) to the public. [In many countries, the people have no idea what life is like outside their immediate community because they have no access to world news. They rely on the word of their heads of state, and any news comes from that source only.]

Although the throngs of reporters can be disruptive and irritating, and sometimes they go too far in aiming for the “big scoop,” – ignoring the privacy needs of grieving families, for instance – to banish them would be constitutionally illegal, and detrimental to the well-being of our society. The police, the president, and sometimes other public figures routinely give news conferences to keep the public informed. The freedom of the press protects our safety and allows us to remain free.

However, all news sources are not the same. By reporting only part of a story, the entire meaning can change. There’s a big difference between falsifying a story and giving a report as initial news is breaking, then going back later when updated facts come to light. Mistakes will be made from time to time when reporting a fast-evolving situation. A reputable media outlet will waste no time before making corrections as updates are received.

Somewhere between falsifying and true reporting, there is also “spinning” or twisting the wording to sound different than the reality of whatever was said, or happened, or is known. This can be considered a “slant.”

Some Newspapers, websites, or channels give a mix of real news and sensationalized gossip or rumor. These are the most dangerous ones, because when we read several real articles, we assume all articles from that source are real, when that isn’t necessarily the case. An example of that would be The Rightists, http://therightists.com/ an online news site that admits to writing half fact, half fiction.

We must also be cautious with “News and Opinion” media. In a standard newspaper, opinions are reserved for the Editorial Pages. This isn’t so clear-cut with news factions on television or the Internet. Many of the political television sites have anchors who work on special pieces, bringing “experts” and other guests to discuss a popular subject. These people are not reporting news, nor are they – for the most part – verifying any news. They are usually giving their opinions, based on their own experiences, or explaining how a certain outcome might be obtained. What they say is not necessarily false, but it’s best to remember that it is only an opinion!

Today, the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters are the two best known sources for network news and accredited newspapers. The AP and Reuters provide news from around the world, and are very good at verifying their sources. News from them also ends up on YouTube, news blogs, and social media such as AOL News, Yahoo News, etc., where bits and pieces are then used on Facebook or Twitter or some other form of internet communication. Local media will also carry much of this information on their own websites. Most Television/Cable companies also have their own investigative reporters stationed around the globe, especially in key cities like London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing and Baghdad. To know if the news you are reading is coming from the AP or Reuters, look just above the body of the news piece, generally on the left-hand side. There is often a name there, indicating who wrote the article, and will include the source if coming from AP or Reuters.

There are also several media outlets that produce “Tabloid News.” Tabloid News is mostly exaggerated, misleading or false headlines, often followed by rumors of the rich and famous. Occasionally, these outlets wander into the world of politics or current events, touting sensationalized happenings, complete with quotes from “unnamed sources.” These are, at best, a form of entertainment reading.

Why do we, as a people, tend to accept questionable information as true, simply because we hear it repeated over and over by the media – even when the media explains that the information has not been substantiated or cannot be proven at the time? That may be the question of the century. It is left up to us to determine if what we are hearing or reading is factual. The hardest part is probably to admit that our way is not the only way, and to pay attention to what other minds think. But the only way to tell fact from fiction is to look it up. To that end, there are several websites that can help:

www.Snopes.com will accommodate a series of key words and try to find your question and verify its truth.

www.Politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/ fact-checks claims and statements made by politicians and other public figures.

www.factcheck.org is another site that strives to verify ads or comments about political parties and people.

https://www.truthorfiction.com attempts to confirm e-rumors.

www.hoaxslayer.com follows and debunks email scams and hoaxes.

One other method that might be helpful: Have you come across an article that seems too good to be true, or maybe too bad to be true? Try typing the title of the article you’re questioning into a browser. If the only thing that comes up is the web location you found it on, it is probably not accurate. If it was, other news organizations would have reported on it.

And finally, I’ve researched several news sites, categorized them, and listed them in alphabetical order. This is, by no means, the full extent of news outlets available.

10 Inaccurate or Tabloid News Sites (Fake News)

Christwire Global Media: www.christwire.org/

Empire News: http://empirenews.net

Empire Sports: http://www.empiresports.co/

Globe: http://www.globemagazine.com

Huzlers: http://www.huzlers.com/

The Daily Currant: http://dailycurrant.com/

The National Inquirer: http://www.nationalinquirer.com

The News Nerd: http://www.thenewsnerd.com/

The NoChill: http://www.thenochill.com/

Wyoming Institute of Technology: http://witscience.org/

Satirical news sites (Obviously written in jest)

Ironic Times: http://ironictimes.com

The Onion: http://www.theonion.com

Current and (mostly) unbiased, trustworthy news sites

ABC:  http://abc.go.com/news

Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/

NBC: http://www.nbcnews.com/

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/

Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/

Time (magazine): http://time.com/

USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/

U.S. News & World Reports: www.usnews.com/

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/

10 LIBERAL leaning news sites and papers (usually honest news, but with a slant)

Daily Kos: http://www.dailykos.com/

Mother Jones: http://www.motherjones.com/

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.com/

Politico: http://www.politico.com/

Slate: http://www.slate.com/

The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/

The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

The Nation: https://www.thenation.com/

The New Republic: https://newrepublic.com/

The Village Voice: http://www.villagevoice.com/

10 CONSERVATIVE leaning news sites and papers (usually honest news but with a slant)

Breitbart: http://www.breitbart.com/

FOX News: http://www.foxnews.com/

News With Views: http://www.newswithviews.com/

Newsmax: http://www.newsmax.com/

Real Clear Politics: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/

Right Wing News: http://rightwingnews.com/

The Drudge Report: http://www.drudgereport.com/

The New York Post: http://nypost.com/

The Weekly Standard: http://www.weeklystandard.com/

Wall Street Journal: http://www.wsj.com/

Update: This is another site you can check for fake news sites. http://fakenewswatch.com

****NOTE TO MY READERS:

I would love to see your comments on my Blog. Please be sure to leave a Name in the space for it. If you enter a link, it goes to spam. The name can be a screen name or handle, or just your first name. Once you do this, you won’t have to do it again for additional comments. If you want to share a link to something regarding the topic, there is a place to add that. I will remove any links that appear to be advertising for a business unrelated to the topics we’re discussing. Email addresses will never be shared. Thank you for your interest! – END

JRBecker

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APATHY – What Causes It?

Posted by on Dec 17, 2016 | 3 comments

APATHY – What Causes It?

APATHY – What Causes It?

Having found myself floundering in a quagmire of apathy recently, I decided to spend some time understanding it better.

  • Merriam-Webster defines APATHY as: lack of feeling or emotion; lack of concern. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apathy. There is also a clinical definition related to depression and other disorders, but I’m looking at apathy from a sociological perspective.

Not that I had lost all caring or emotion, but I was feeling deadened to the aftermath of the elections in this modern era where we have so many advantages; instant news reports, multiple daily polls, daily (and sometimes hourly) briefings from every angle, and an opinion on everything from every pundit imaginable. I wanted to stay tuned in, to catch all the nuances of the various outcomes across our nation.

Before the November election, I heard that many voters were apathetic this year. Mostly, it was attributed to the lack of trust or faith in either major candidate. I, on the other hand, was extremely interested in the campaigns and platforms, or lack thereof, for both the Republicans and the Democrats. I tried to learn more about the Libertarian and Green party candidates as well, but there was precious little to be found. What I did find was than many voters planned on voting, but not necessarily for either major presidential candidate. They were interested in their local elections, and even state elections and federal congressional representatives, but many had developed apathy towards the presidential race. Several were going to vote for the Libertarian or Green candidates as a protest vote. Others planned to write in names. Some simply intended to leave the vote for president blank. And sadly, a great number of people simply decided not to vote at all. I couldn’t understand the apathy. In my research mode, I was learning more and more, and developing my own opinions as the months passed. I read about and wrote about the Electoral College. I was developing my own theories about that, as well. There were opportunities if we only used our heads.

I voted early but continued to watch with enthusiasm as tensions mounted and rhetoric flew between the parties. I kept waiting for revelations, for some kind of knock-out punch from either side. It never came. I expected a big change in both the Senate and House because polls showed that the voters were disgusted with the lack of representation by the “do nothing” congress. I wondered would the parties flip, or would the incumbents be replaced with upgraded models? With only a few exceptions, the incumbents were voted back in. What?! And so it followed in state and local races. For the most part, governors and state legislators retained their positions.

On the night before the election, the polls showed the democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton leading, but by only by 2% to 3% – well within the margin of error. Republican nominee, Donald Trump was holding his own, and it was anybody’s game. I was encouraged by the initial turnout reports. It looked like we might see a much better than projected voter response. In fact, it ended up being lower than expected at 58%. In the end, using the latest numbers I’ve been able to find at http://www.electproject.org/2016g although complete numbers for three states are not currently available, it seems some 15,000,000 citizens who cast ballots did not vote for either of the two major party nominees for president. What?! What?!

Donald Trump / Mike Pence ended up carrying the Electoral College numbers (306), with Hillary Clinton / Tim Kaine capturing the popular vote by over 2,800,000 votes. As of this writing, the Electoral College has not yet convened to cast the final votes for President-Elect Donald Trump and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence. That happens on December 19, 2016. Theoretically, they will vote as their states voted. They don’t have to, but penalties for changing their vote vary from fines and jail time, to rejection of their vote, to no consequence whatsoever. [UPDATE: On December 19, 2016 the Electoral College officially named Donald Trump the President-Elect, with 306 electoral votes.]

So here I sit, pondering the future, and wondering how we spent billions of dollars on campaigns (when you include all the state and local elections, the expenditure is staggering), and basically changed nothing that will fix a single problem for the average American citizen. In all probability, many people will end up losing much more than they gain. Health care may be gone entirely. Minimum wage may stay stagnant, and the elderly may see decreases, rather than cost of living increases. Veterans will still be ignored, and education will remain unattainable for the people who need it most to pull themselves together and become contributing members of society. On November 9th, I began to understand “apathy.” It starts with confusion. Sometimes frustration or anger steps in, but basically I felt myself becoming drained of enthusiasm, lost to reason, and unable to communicate with my empathy for humanity. Apathy comes from constant defeat, lack of progress – no matter how hard one works, and the slow knowledge that one’s voice is no longer heard.

My sense of apathy does not come from any one single person winning or losing, but rather from the lack of interest (apathy) I saw from the American citizens who did not take the time to do a little bit of research in order to find out how the government works, to fact-check what candidates said – or was said about them, or to consider what brought us to the place we are today, and what needs to be done to better our situations and the situations of millions of other people who are still struggling. They voted blindly for “their congressional representatives” because they were told that it was the other ones that were doing nothing. They voted carelessly for their presidential candidate because theirs wasn’t as bad as the other (?), but they did so without finding out more about the other, or considering different views. Worst of all, they chose to only listen to the rhetoric that shored up the opinions they had already formed, many based on memes from Face Book and tweets from friends and members of the parties they felt affiliated with. The answer for too many was “do nothing.”

Writing this commentary is my first step in escaping the grasp of apathy. I don’t like it here. I know there are people out there like me… still fighting, still knowing that we can change the path we are following right now if we find our courage, beliefs and passions again.

My second step will be a thorough research project and post about Fake News. Freedom of the Press is one of the basic elements of our United States Constitution and our democracy, but it has been egregiously undermined and abused. It’s all part of this frightening journey we’re on; road signs giving false directions, dragging us through apathetic darkness and leading us to unintended destinations. Look for my post in the coming days.

 

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Electoral College – Stay or Go?

Posted by on Oct 23, 2016 | 0 comments

Electoral College – Stay or Go?

 

CONVERSATION: How does the Electoral College work, and do we still need it?

The president and vice president are selected through the Electoral College system which gives each state the same number of electoral votes as it has members of Congress. (One for each Senator and each House Representative.) The District of Columbia gets three electoral votes. Of the total 538 votes available, a candidate must receive 270 to win.

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3c/Electoral_College_2016.svg/1020px-Electoral_College_2016.svg.png

 

With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, all states assign a delegation of electors who pledge to honor the winner of the popular vote, or who follow that state’s regulation which binds the electors by law to vote according to popular vote for the whole. The pledges are not mandated by law, but the rule of popular vote is generally followed. In Maine (4) and Nebraska (5), the Electoral College gives two statewide votes to the winner of the popular vote, with the rest being decided by congressional district. No senator or representative can be named an elector nor can any other person holding an office of trust or profit for the United States. The 14th Amendment also disqualifies any state official found to have taken part in rebellion or insurrection towards the United States, or giving aid and comfort to its enemies, from being an Elector. The following states show the names of their Electors for the Electoral College on the ballot: Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Dakota.

The 12th Amendment says that a separate vote must be given to the president, and then to the vice president. The same amendment states that in the event of a presidential tie, with no one having a majority, the House of Representatives will select the president, but will receive one vote from the delegation, not the actual state representative. Should there be a tie for vice president, the Senate will select the new vice president.

This method of electing the president and vice president was decided by the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The question of the day was, should the president be elected by Congressional Representatives or by popular vote. Remember, there were no computers, no adding machines, no phones, no telegraph, and certainly no trains, planes or cars, so getting popular votes in and counted across the country wasn’t even feasible. Congressional vote for President was out, as many thought there was too much chance of corruption if the vote was decided by a group of men who knew each other from frequent inter-action during sessions of Congress. Another concern was the difference between the northern states and the southern states regarding slavery. The Electors method of voting prevented states that had free Negroes from using them to influence elections, as Negroes were not counted in the population census. So all in all, having Electors was the best solution of the times. (The first time the term “Electoral College” was used in law was in 1845, and comes from the Roman Empires’ use of the Latin phrase; collegium electorum.)

Many people today think the Electoral College should be eliminated, so let’s talk about that.

Currently, the Supreme Court holds the position that nothing in the constitution assures Electors of complete freedom to vote as they please, so some states require them to pledge along a party line.

How would choosing by popular vote alone change the system?

A clean and simple count of ballots would ensure that a true majority of voters would determine the winner. This does not include registered voters who don’t make it to the polls or don’t mail in their ballots. It also gives no representation for unregistered citizens. 63.3% of eligible voters actually voted in 2008, and that percentage dipped to 57.5% in 2012. (Would elimination of the Electoral College encourage more people to register and vote?)

If we decided to keep the Electoral College, could it be improved upon?

Since all states have their own rules for selecting the Electors, it might be more even-handed if standard rules were applied for all state Electors. Aside from the one rule named in the Constitution; No senator or representative can be named an elector nor can any other person holding an office of trust or profit for the United States, possible rules to consider might be as follows:

  • All states must list their Electors on general election ballots
  • All states must list their Electors on primary and general election ballots
  • All Electors are bound to vote according to popular vote of their state (or district), and providing an enforced law for misuse of powers if not followed
  • All states must choose their Electors by district, as Nebraska and Maine do
  • Nebraska and Maine must abide by popular vote standards statewide
  • Electors must be announced before all elections, and their votes must be made public through news media at the time of the official count

Now that you’ve read this article, if you have any other suggestions or any comments, please post them in the comments section. I will follow up on them, and post as an article if you want to add to this conversation.

Other sources of information to round out this article were:

www.Wikipedia.com

https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/electors.html

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