A Country in Chaos

31 Aug

This has been a tumultuous month for our country to say the least.  Towards the middle of the month we had a clash between Neo Nazi’s and the Antifa.  It ended with a Neo Nazi running members of the Antifa over, injuring many and killing one.  In the last week a Hurricane has devastated Southeastern Texas.  We as a country survive these problems but we are missing something important; a leader who is there to comfort a stricken nation.

Racists and Neo Nazis are nothing new in our country but they have new energy under our current president.  President Trump has had several chances to condemn these hate groups, and he has whiffed almost every time.  The President seems to think it is more important to keep his base intact than to represent all Americans.  Recent presidents before him would not have made the same tone-deaf statements that our President did.

Despite what some Trump supporters think we are moving past the era of the KKK and Neo Nazis.  That’s one of the reasons Confederate Statues are coming down.  The country is moving towards a more diverse one.  Anyone who is against that can move on or move out.  Fareed Zakaria summed this up several years ago when he said, “You can’t love America in theory, but hate it in fact.”

There will always be some resistance on our country being multicultural.  The best thing we can do is fight racists every step of the way.  We saw that in Charlottesville were peaceful protesters were run over by a Neo Nazi.  What happened in Charlottesville was tragic.  The Presidents responses to the terror attacks in Charlottesville did nothing to comfort what happened there.  The violence that happened at the rally are only at the feet of those who bring hate into our country.

The Republicans that are left defending Trump are either doing so in the hope that he will help them pass their agenda, or were with Trump before he became president.  If you are selling your soul to get your agenda passed you don’t belong in our government.  Most of the honorable Republicans have either completely distanced themselves from Trump, or they are no longer Republicans.

Before I end this blog post I want to say something about the ongoing effects of Hurricane Harvey.  Donate to help victims of the storm or donate your time if to help those in need.  We have many disagreements as a country, but we need to be united in our support of rebuilding areas affected by the storm.  I am also urging members of congress to support a relief bill.

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Crisis in Governing

31 Jul

Since the 1800’s the two current political parties have dominated our system of government.  Both parties managed to govern when it was their turn to run the government.  This system of government worked for us for some time.  This changed in recent years, (more specifically the 1990’s.)  Now only one party is capable of governing.

George Washington once warned of the dangers of a two-party system.  He was right.  It used to be that despite their differences, the two parties were able to govern, no matter who was in power.  After the 1994 election when Republicans took control of both chambers of Congress for more than a generation, things went downhill.  A government shutdown occurred and congress later tried to impeach the president because he lied under oath about Monica Lewinsky.  Despite this, they were eventually able to pass a budget and even managed to put our country on a pathway to settle our debt.

During the George W. Bush administration, there was animosity between the two parties but things still got done.  When Democrats took control of congress in 2007, budgets were passed, but the White House and Congress sparred over political differences.  In 2009, the Democrats gained control of two out of the three branches of government.  The Republicans immediately decided that they would attempt to block anything the Democrats tried to get done rather than compromise.

It was during that time that things slowed down in Congress.  Republicans worked tirelessly to make sure that business in government would grind to a halt.  They set a new standard of requiring 60 votes for anything except the budget to get anything passed.  Towards the end of the Obama administration, the Republicans blocked Obama from appointing a Supreme Court Justice.  By the time Trump took office, the Republicans managed to prevent a budget from getting passed on a regular basis.  Instead they would go months at a time passing a continuing resolution setting up budget battles.  The Republicans even shut down the government and nearly defaulted on our nation’s debt.

Today the Republicans control all three branches of government and are unable to govern effectively.  The latest Health Care debacle is an example of this.  Things that President Trump said he wanted to do in a bipartisan matter like improving infrastructure are going nowhere.  Republicans with few exceptions are spending most of their time trying to defend the president.  There are two main types of Republicans left in the party.  Those who are willing to defy Trump on some things and others who have made a deal with the devil to get what they want.

The Republican Party used to be the party of Civil Rights, low debt, fiscal responsibility and even helping working class people.  Today they are the party of racism, big business and servants for corporate America.  Last year they nominated someone with no morals and no ethics who was willing to commit treason to get elected.  The party may have lost its mind during the Obama years, but they lost their soul in supporting and continuing to support someone like Trump.

The Republican’s Health Care Bill

30 Jun

The Republicans have been criticizing The Affordable Care Act for the last 7 years.  They have been promising to repeal and replace it since it became law.  They have had that chance for the last several months, and they haven’t been able to.  Protests around the country have mostly prevented that from happening.  The most puzzling thing to me is that they have had years to come up with an alternative plan, and they didn’t have one ready to go when they had the chance.

The House barely passed a version of the Republican’s Health Care law.  The Senate is having trouble passing their version of Health Care.  The underlying problem in all of this is that Republicans have almost always been against social programs.  At the time the Affordable Care Act was being debated, many Republicans denied there was even a problem with Health Care.

We have had problems with our health care system for some time.  I personally think we need to move away from private insurance.  Health insurance companies have been abusing the system.  Before the Affordable Care Act insurance companies could deny people treatment or coverage for no reason.  No one’s life should be determined by whether or not the insurance company wants to pay for your treatment.

I hesitate to call either of the Republicans bills, “Health Care Reform.”  It uses the money it cuts from Medicaid to help wealthy Americans in the form of a tax cut.  This isn’t a health care bill, it’s the Republicans finding another way to give a massive tax cut for the wealthy.  Seven years ago the Republicans complained that the Affordable Care Act was done in secret and was rushed to a vote.  The Republicans in Congress wrote this bill behind closed doors and were trying to rush it through before the 4th of July.

If the Republicans are truly genuine about fixing the problems with our broken health care system, they would include Democrats in the writing of a new health care bill.  There are problems with the Affordable Care Act, but I am not confident the Republicans want to do anything to fix it.  The biggest problem with the Affordable Care Act is that it is improving a broken system, but doesn’t change it to where it needs to be.

Ever since Liberals introduced social programs, Republicans have been skeptical or opposed them.  FDR’s New Deal Programs were opposed by Republicans.  Republicans have either tried to oppose or weaken Medicare and Medicaid.  No Republicans voted for the final version of the Affordable Care Act.  Liberals have almost always supported social programs that benefit society.  If the Republicans have almost always been against social programs, why should we trust them to fix the problems on their own?

First Hundred Days

31 May

I’ll be honest; I’ve never been a fan of the phrase, “First 100 days.”  It is mostly used for the presidency but congressional Democrats in 2007 also used the phrase first 100 hours to describe the legislation they wanted to get done in their first week after taking control of congress.  The phrase, “First 100 days” was first used to describe FDR’s first 100 days of his presidency.  FDR also had the advantage of having large majorities in both houses of congress.

When FDR first took office he inherited a worse mess than when Obama took office.  The economy was in a constant downward spiral, banks were failing left and right, and he had a looming international crisis not too far off.  FDR and congress knew they had to act fast if they wanted the country to survive the Great Depression.  In the first 100 days FDR signed into law The New Deal legislation which helped alleviate poverty, and got people back to work.  It created confidence among the American people that things would get better.

Since FDR left office many presidents have tried not to live up to the 100 day standard.  Our current president did when he was running for office.  He said that he would get so much done in his first 100 days.  I think President Trump thought that running a business would be the same as running the country.  I agree with what Trump said now that the first 100 days are a ridiculous standard.  Having said that Trump consistently said during the campaign that he would get all of this stuff done in his first 100 days and that it would be so easy.  What President Trump now realizes is that running a country and running a business are not the same thing.

President Trump is now in the same position many politicians have put themselves in.  He has to deliver on some of his promises.  The midterm elections are next year.  I heard an interview with Trump supporters earlier this year.  One of them was asked, “How long will you give Trump to deliver on these promises?”  They replied, “2 years.”  I wonder how many of Trump’s supporters will be with him next year when they go to the ballot box, especially if nothing gets done between now and then.

Russia Investigation

31 Mar

Last year, during the election there were reports that Russia was trying to interfere with our election.  While President Trump has denied there is link between him and Russia during the election, some of the people around him are under investigation for talking to the Russians before the election.  The investigation has hit a road block in the House of Representatives but it is going forward in the FBI as well as the U.S. Senate.  My hope is that the Democrats and Republicans pursue this and find out what happened in our election last year.

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign recently after only several weeks on the job.  It was revealed that he had spoken to Sergey Kislyak around the time the Obama administration put sanctions on Russia because of their interference in the 2016 election.  Michael Flynn lied about it and was forced to resign.  He has since agreed to testify in exchange for immunity.  The President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner also spoke with Sergey Kislyak before Trump became our president.

The U.S. House Intelligence committee were looking into connections between the Trump administration and Russia.  That changed when Intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes rushed to defend Donald Trump and cancelled hearings this week.  Since congressman Nunes seems to be covering for Trump instead of investigating, Nunes should recusal himself and resign from congress if he is covering up a crime.  Attorney general Jeff Sessions has already recused himself from the FBI Russian investigation because of his contacts with the Russians before the Trump Administration took office.

I think President Trump had contacts with the Russians before the election and collaborated with them.  This would be considered Treason at the very least.  I am basing this on information we know already.  I do not make these charges lightly and I would like a full investigation to find out what happened.  The FBI and U.S. Senate are currently running investigations between Trump and the U.S. election last year.  We don’t know what all of the facts are so we need to find out so that we know what happened in the last election.

Resistance

28 Feb

Last year I saw two movies with similar stories, one based on a true story and one not.  Anthropoid is a story about resistance during WWII in occupied Czechoslovakia.  Rogue One is a sort of prequel to Star Wars: A New Hope.  In Rogue One the main character is reluctant to join the Rebellion.  When someone joins a rebellion or resistance movement they are doing so knowing that they are risking their lives with no guarantee of success.  (Spoiler Alert.  If you haven’t seen either movie or don’t know about Reinhardt Heydrich then I would stop reading past this paragraph.)

In Anthropoid, two Czech resistance fighters parachute into their occupied homeland.  Early in the war the allies gave the Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia) to Nazi Germany.  There is some debate over whether or not this was a delaying tactic or done to stop war.  The Czech government in exile ordered the two resistance fighters to assassinate Reinhardt Heydrich, then 3rd in the Nazi hierarchy.  Heydrich was also sent to Prague to crush the resistance movement there.  He mostly succeeded.

The two Czech resistance fighters Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik meet with what is left of the resistance movement in Prague.  They debate but ultimately decide to go ahead with the dangerous mission.  They know that even if they succeed in assassinating Reinhardt Heydrich they will put their families and even occupied Czechoslovakia in danger.  Kubis and Gabcik also know that they may not make it out of Czechoslovakia alive.  The assassination succeeds, but it turns out to be a pyrrhic victory.  Thousands of Czechs are rounded up and shot.  Two villages are burnt to the ground with most of the population being sent to concentration camps or are shot.

Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik manage to escape after the assassination but they both are forced into hiding.  They eventually seek refuge in a church.  Before they can escape they are betrayed by one of their own.  The resistance fighters and the family who tried to hide them didn’t much outlive Reinhardt Heydrich.  The question most people ask about this is was it worth it?  Its tough for me to say because I was not in that situation.  I think it was because of how horrible a person Heydrich was.

In Rogue One Jyn Erso is separated from her family at a young age when her mother is killed and her father is forced to develop the Death Star.  Jyn Erso eventually decides to accept the risky mission of retrieving the Death Star plans.  Her and several other Rebels succeed in delivering the plans but sacrifice their lives doing so.

In both of the movies the main characters are resisting a brutal regime with a constant risk of death.  The characters both make their sacrifices for the greater good.  I am not comparing the situation the country is in now to Nazi Germany, far from it.  People resist in dire times at great risk.  We have the right to protest in this country.  We can speak out at any time without fear of prosecution or imprisonment.  There is no excuse for any of us to resist or speak out against something that is wrong especially considering people in worse situations have done so at greater peril.

Alt-facts

31 Jan

Donald Trump has only been in office a week and he hasn’t changed a bit from what he was during the campaign.  Congress has only approved a small handful of his appointments.  He has issued a series of executive orders.  His worst executive order is his one to ban people from coming to the U.S. from 7 Muslim-majority countries.  This is Un-American plain and simple.  It has already been halted by a Federal judge.  It has been said over and over again that we are a nation of immigrants.  Donald Trump’s grandfather was an immigrant.  We are repeating the mistakes of the past.

Unfortunately the U.S. has an ugly history when it comes to welcoming immigrants or people who are different than us.  African-Americans have and continue to face discrimination.  In the 1800’s we weren’t exactly welcoming towards Irish immigrants or Chinese Immigrants.  During WWII Jews faced Antisemitism.  We should have known better considering where our ancestors came from.  Americans escaped England to avoid religious persecution.  Many of the refugees coming from war-torn countries are doing the same thing.

There will always be people who want to deny what our existence as a country was founded on.  Our founding fathers were not deeply religious as some have suggested.  We are not a Christian nation.  We are a nation of many religions.  If people can’t accept that then they should leave.  My great-grandmother escaped Russian territory before WWI ended to escape anti-Semitic pogroms.

There are many more stories like my great-grandmothers.  If we wish to continue as a country we should be welcoming refugees with open arms.  Most people’s security concerns about refugees aren’t based on facts.  We already have very strong refugee screening program in our country.  President Trump’s executive order has put U.S. citizens in danger across the world.  If we continue on this path we won’t be the only ones restricting access to our country.  Other countries will respond with bans on U.S. citizens.  That doesn’t further anyone’s goal or make us safer.