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

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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