Nuance

Nuance (nü-ˌän(t)s):  a subtle distinction or variation

“Democrats suck!”

You might be surprised at how many posts I read start with that statement, or something similar. It’s most often in response to something a lightning-rod Democratic politician, like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, or any number of others has said or done. I recognize it as a knee-jerk reaction, because later in the post, the specific issue is discussed, and it almost always involves one person, or a small group of people.

What annoys me is when people then view me with those same filters. I can see how it’s possible, but I am not like all other Democrats.

I consider myself in a difficult position when it comes to debating liberal/conservative issues. I have been a lifelong Democrat. (There was a time when I thought the 1968 Republican Convention was more fun than the 1968 Democratic Convention, but I was 8 years old, so give me a break.) My family was not involved in politics. My father was a steelworker, but did not walk in lock step with the steelworker’s union. When there was a push to increase tariffs on imported steel, the union advertised heavily. Dad told me that tariffs weren’t the only answer, that the steel industry needed to fix its plants and become up to date. So he was not a toe-the-line Democrat.

Lately, though, I find that my personal views line up very nicely with the Democratic platform, and that there is nearly nothing in the Republican platform that I agree with. Maybe the polarized political climate these days contributed to that. Anyway, it’s hard for me to come across as an independent thinker when all my opinions are the Democratic position.

I like to think I am a logical thinker. I am also hung up on getting facts right and interpreting them correctly. Those traits do not fit well with Facebook posts, which is one reason I resorted to blogging. I end up quoting Snopes and PolitiFact quite a bit. I try to lay out where an opposing position does not logically hold.

All I am doing is defending my beliefs. Yet others see this as dismissing their beliefs when I do this. I have been called out on this a number of times, and it usually ends in name calling and silencing debate. Why can’t there be a middle ground?

The answer is, of course there is a middle ground. Both of us can be right.

I’ll give a brief example related to the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. A group of people point out that millions of people now have health care who didn’t have it before. Another group point out that Obama lied when he said everyone will be able to keep their current doctor, and in some areas of the country premiums have gone up tremendously.

I believe all of these statements are true. I don’t know if conservatives I chat with acknowledge the increase in people who have insurance, because they never bring it up in their posts.

What we each think should be done about it are completely contradictory. Putting it simply, I believe the ACA needs to be fixed but remain in place, and my conservative friends think it needs to be scrapped.

It is challenging to hold two contradictory statements at the same time. In an adventure game based on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, created by Infocom, there was a point where you had to show you were intelligent by holding two contradictory ideas at the same time. On a more serious note, there are a number of people who have excelled and showed that they are masters of their field, yet they have committed some serious offenses against others and humanity. It sometimes is very difficult for me to acknowledge both sides.

Even though it is difficult to acknowledge both sides of an issue, it is key to dealing with a lot of the nation’s problems. Making progress in race relations requires all of us to treat people the same while simultaneously recognizing that they are different. Proposed legislation often has positive points and negative points (again, look at the ACA). Surely we can delve into the issue and come up with a workable law – not just a compromise, but one that in fact satisfies everyone’s value system.

Even simply recognizing there is very little that matches anyone’s belief system one hundred percent is a struggle, but it is also the first step toward understanding our world and working to improve it.

So, Democrats don’t suck, any more than Republicans suck. There are many Democratic and Republican ideas that suck. Once we acknowledge that and are comfortable with that notion, we can move forward and make some progress.

 

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Immediate (Knee-jerk) Response

This is now the third time I posted this cartoon from This Modern World:

The events in Las Vegas are horrible. As I write this, 59 people are dead and over 520 are injured after being targeted by a man with automatic rifles. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to be in a crowd targeted by a shooter, and just knowing a rain of bullets is killing and injuring people standing next to you. I hope and pray that the survivors find a way to address the fear, anger, sadness, whatever they happen to be feeling, in such a way that they can continue to lead as close to a normal life as possible.

Some of these people will decide to take action to do what they can to keep incidents like this one to become even more often than they are. If they come up with a plan of action, I hope they let everyone know what it is so many of us can act.
This is now the time to discuss how to keep automatic weapons from being used in another massacre, despite what Sean Hannity says. Police are investigating the shooting, arrangements are being made for the dead, the wounded are being treated. We can move on to addressing the problem. If you don’t think so, think about this:

Jimmy Kimmel, who hails from Las Vegas, talked about the two hotel fires in Las Vegas in 1980. Many died in those blazes. Not long after, Nevada changed their laws, requiring buildings to be more fireproof, more able to keep a huge blaze from happening again. Since then, there have been no deadly fires in Las Vegas casinos.

We can’t talk about automatic weapons? Not long after the shooting, pundits were saying how we need to ask about hotel safety; “how did the man get 20 automatic rifles into his hotel room unnoticed?” It didn’t seem like it was too soon to discuss that.

Second Amendment advocates will say that restrictive gun laws have never reduced gun crime. I think those making those arguments fail to understand Statistics 101: correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

They will trot out the old saw “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “If we just keep the mentally ill from owning guns, things will stop.” Forget the notion that mental illness covers a wide range of behaviors; truth is, none of the recent shooters showed any outward sign of mental illness.

My position has always been that yes, people kill people, but guns, especially automatic weapons, kill people efficiently. Imagine the same events, except the shooter had a single-shot sniper rifle instead of an automatic weapon. He might have been able to kill a few people before the crowd realized what was happening and scattered. He might have killed a few more until police pinpointed where the shots were coming from. I think it would have been nearly impossible to kill almost 60 people before he was stopped.

No citizen needs an automatic weapon. Hunters would say it’s not sporting to go deer hunting with an automatic rifle. People wouldn’t use it to protect themselves and their homes; they are big, and might cause a lot of collateral damage in their house.

I think a case can be made that a restriction on automatic weapons will pass Second Amendment challenges. The law is not infringing on people’s right to bear arms, just this particular type of armament. I know many who interpret the Second Amendment differently. OK, let’s debate it. Better yet, let’s pass a law and see how the courts feel.

Some will argue, “Restrictions on automatic weapons won’t stop gun violence. If automatic weapons are outlawed, only outlaws will have automatic weapons.” True, it won’t stop gun violence. Some person will find a way to get an automatic weapon and do this again. But, it will deter those who don’t have a criminal bent, or who are shooting as a knee-jerk reaction to some event in their lives. If the next mass shooting has 10 people killed, it will still be a tragedy and a disaster for those involved, but at the very least it would be a step in the right direction.

It saddens me to read over this post and see how often I refer to the next shooting, as if it were a fact of life. Let’s work toward the goal of making mass shootings extremely few and far between.

If anyone knows a way for an individual, who is not a lawmaker, to work toward this goal, please let me know. Then take action.

John Oliver -I Can’t Say Enough about the Man

Stand-up comedian and former “Daily Show” correspondent John Oliver is host of a show on HBO called “Last Week Tonight.” The show just won an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Talk Series (which is where they seem to lump the comic news shows, like “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and “Last Week Tonight.”)

John Oliver discusses Clinton’s scandals and Trump’s scandals on “Last Week Tonight.”

Oliver analyzes the scandals that are plaguing Clinton and Trump. He gives a thorough analysis, makes several gross jokes, and in the middle pulls a nice trick that shows how the media is hardly biased in favor of Clinton; in fact, their search for news has raised her scandals to an unbelievable level, which Oliver points out.

Then, of course, there are the raisins. If you’ve seen the clip, you know about the raisins. Anyone who knows about the clip knows about the raisins. If you haven’t seen the clip, you owe it to yourself to watch it.

Trump supporters will no doubt find fault with the clip, and will (in fact have) dismiss it. One fellow Facebook poster even said that comedians have no place in political discourse. (This is a ridiculous comment; political humor has been part of the national conversation since the start of the Republic.) I urge them to watch it with an open mind and judge the facts.

Full disclosure: Oliver does not like Trump at all. He tried not to talk about Trump on his show, fearing it would just encourage him. When he saw that was unavoidable, he had several pieces on him. To counter his comments about immigrants, he pointed out that Trump’s family was immigrants, and in fact changed his name from Drumpf. His campaign to “Make Donald Drumpf Again” even took hold for a little while. He also told the story about Trump pretending to be his own press agent. He offered a standing invitation to his press agent, but not to Trump.

I don’t think John Oliver can be easily dismissed, at least not once you’ve watched him. He has a great writing staff, and I understand a great team of researchers as well. The forum of his own half-hour show on HBO gives him the time to explore issues in a lot more depth – the very reason I prefer blogging to replying to Facebook posts. He takes the time to make his points and make them tough to refute. The fact that he can be thorough, insightful, and LOL funny is tremendous.

Recently I tweeted this:

Oliver’s been pretty hard on Trump already; if he hasn’t brought him down yet, it might not happen. I hope he takes his show on the road – delivers his message on other talk shows and news shows, and even as a stand-up show. John, I’ll try to keep doing my part. But if anyone can make a difference here, I think it’s you. Not only have you won numerous awards, attesting to your talent, many of your shows have trended on Twitter and have otherwise gained national attention.

Who knows? It may take a former Britisher, from a land with a king, to show that the wannabe emperor has no clothes.

Update: June 25, 2017

It took me a while to post this, but since then, Oliver has been in the news several times. Here is an article about his latest show (June 18, 2017):

John Oliver sued by coal CEO claiming ‘character assassination’

I’m glad the lawsuit is happening. Oliver meticulously researches his show, and stands by what he says. After all, an absolute defense against a slander or libel suit is the truth.

NPR Story – “Lots Of Candidates Want To Simplify Tax Code; Here’s What They Get Wrong”

Trump’s tax proposal is about to be discussed at length. I don’t think discussions will start in Congress until after the end of the month or after there is a federal spending plan, whichever is later. (Cross your fingers there won’t be a shutdown.)

This is an old NPR story (dateline September 28, 2015), but nothing has changed that affects the points in the article.

You can read the article here. There are several interesting points that everyone who wants to discuss and change tax policy needs to read and understand.

As always, I invite your opinions.

My White House Petition – PLEASE SIGN

I have posted the petition to require qualifications for cabinet level officials on the “We the People” website. Until it gets 150 signatures, the only way people can sign it is to click on the link below:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/require-qualifications-cabinet-level-officials

Once it gets 150 signatures, the petition will appear on the site, so people can read and respond to it without having the link. If the petition gets 100,000 signatures within 30 days, the White House will respond within 60 days.

Obviously, there is no guarantee that the White House will respond at all. The website was an Obama administration creation. In fact, the most depressing news I received (unsurprising, but depressing nonetheless) was that the Trump Administration is thinking of taking down the site.

So, let’s try to get to 150 signatures before the site comes down. If it doesn’t get traction at the site in time, perhaps we can get a list of respondents and send it to the White House and Congress directly. I can certainly use your help in spreading the word, and I appreciate any help you can provide.

It’s a small step, but maybe a lot of single clicks will get someone’s attention.

My Proposed White House Petition – Please Review

The White House has a web page set up to allow citizens to petition the White House on a change in policy or to ask the Administration for clarification on some of its positions. The site is https://petitions.whitehouse.gov. If a petition gets more than 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the White House will respond within 60 days.

I was appalled at many of the Secretaries in the Trump Cabinet. Some are on record as opposing the mission of the department they are leading; some are totally unqualified for their position. This cannot lead to good decision making or policy.

I am proposing a petition to address this. Full text is below. Please look over it, and please offer comments on how to improve it. Thank you.

Require qualifications for cabinet-level officials

Some Cabinet Secretaries have been singularly unqualified for their positions. For example, current Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has a BS in Animal Science, and is a lifelong politician with no technical expertise in energy. (By contrast, the last Secretary of Energy under President Obama, Dr. Ernest Moniz, has a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics and is a nuclear physicist.) While we recognize that there are skills other than technical expertise that are useful in these positions, lack of any knowledge or experience calls into question policies from the departments.

We propose that each appointed Cabinet Secretary have a minimum level of education or expertise in his position. A list of qualified education or experience for each department will be determined by an independent panel.

I have not yet posted the petition. Once I do, I will share the URL here. It is only visible to me and people I share it with until it gets 150 signatures. Then it will be publicly searchable on We the People. Once the petition is finalized and posted, I would really like for you to sign it.

And while you’re at the site, perhaps you will be inspired to create your own petition, or to sign one of many that are already there.

This is another small way I am becoming active in government.

President Trump’s First 100 Days – Wait, It’s Less than 20?

President Trump hasn’t wasted any time pissing off lots of people as President. He’s done a lot, but we need to pay attention to each misfire.

NPR recently ran an article describing the timeline of President Trump’s first two weeks in office. Many of the executive orders he signed and statements he made have been questionable at best; some may have even been illegal.

Here is a bullet list of Trump’s actions in the first two weeks:

  • Spoke at CIA; complained about coverage of inauguration (claims turnout was largest inauguration turnout; pictures and subway ridership numbers belie this)
  • Met with Congressional leaders; claimed there were between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes cast (did not offer sources; many reports point out only a handful of voter fraud cases)
  • Signed order reinstating Mexico City policy concerning federal funding for abortion providers
  • Spoke about withdrawing from the TPP
  • Issued federal hiring freeze
  • Approved construction of Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines
  • Ordered the construction of a wall on the southern border with Mexico
  • Directed Homeland Security to withhold funds from “sanctuary cities”
  • During interview, repeated his false claim that there were millions of illegal votes
  • Addressed GOP congressional retreat
  • Gave interview to Sean Hannity; talked about crowd size and illegal votes again, and stated he believes waterboarding works (his defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, disagrees)
  • Issued an executive order blocking travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries; issue was met with much confusion and protesting, and a stay has been issued by federal court
  • Hosted British prime minister Theresa May
  • Appointed Steve Bannon to permanent member of the Principals Committee of the National Security Agency, and demoted director of national intelligence and chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff to as-needed members
  • Called Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • Called Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; call was tense
  • Banned administration appointees from ever lobbying foreign governments and from federal lobbying for 5 years after leaving office
  • Directed administration to develop a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS
  • Authorized Navy SEAL raid in Yemen; one SEAL and several civilians were killed
  • Fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, after she told Justice Department lawyers not to defend the travel ban
  • Signed an order that says for every regulation the executive branch proposes, two others must be repealed
  • Nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court
  • Traveled to Dover AFB for return of Navy SEAL killed in raid
  • Spoke at National Prayer Breakfast; asked nation to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger, pledged to allow churches more leeway to enter political discussions
  • Signed order directing the review of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations
  • Signed order halting implementation of a rule mandating financial advisers act in the best interest of their clients
  • Tweeted about judge who suspended travel ban
  • At meeting of sheriffs, joked that he will destroy the career of a Texas senator
  • At same meeting, claimed muder rate is highest it’s been in 47 years (wrong; it’s half as high as it’s been at its maximum, about 4.9 deaths per 100,000, compared to more than 9% in the seventies)

There are a lot of items on this list, but let’s not let that stop us from fighting back on each and every one of them. The actions run the range from showing Trump doesn’t understand the role of President of the United States to being outright unconstitutional.

It’s human nature to forget the last egregious action when the next egregious action happens. Let’s never forget.

Gotta Pick ’em All!

Lately, I’ve been hearing this refrain from my conservative friends, as well as conservative media types: “The election is over. You lost. Get over it.” My response to that has been it’s not merely the fact that Clinton didn’t win the presidency, it’s that Trump did. I wasn’t this upset or anxious when George W. Bush won in 2000. It’s less about a Republican in the White House than it is that a misguided, thin-skinned real estate tycoon who has no political experience, and has shown it, is in office.

I’ve also heard a common statement from liberal commentators: “Pick your battles.” They suggest that some things Trump is doing are innocuous enough that we can let them slide, and we can then focus on bigger issues.

Unfortunately, the way I see it, all Trump’s issues are big ones. Fortunately, the anti-Trump movement has enough people to address all the issues.

Everyone saw the large crowds on Saturday the 21st all over the country. (OK, maybe everyone except President Trump.) That was a huge outpouring of support, and even if it doesn’t influence any lawmakers, it galvanizes the anti-Trump people and gives the energy to continue.

Certainly, with all those people involved, we can address all Trump’s issues; we don’t have to pick our battles. We can use President Trump’s own tactics against him. (It felt very good to say that.) In a previous blog post, Lies, Damn Lies, and Tweets, I said that a strategy President Trump and many of his on-air surrogates use is to throw many lies at us so fast that we can’t keep up. If we all continue to call President Trump out on all his actions, and start lawsuits wherever possible, we can inundate him and his staff so much that they will be spending all their energy fighting back, and won’t have time or energy left to further screw up the country.

In the same blog post, I talked about acting like they did in the old Faberge commercial: I’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Maybe if each larger organization focuses on their area of strength (DGA on state issues, DNC and Congress on federal issues, Greenpeace on environmental issues, and so on), we can tackle all the issues. There are certainly enough groups who have been affected by one or more of Trump’s executive orders that they all can be addressed without overlap.

Individually, we probably do need to pick our battles, just so we don’t get burned out. But, let’s support everyone else who is picking their separate battles. If we hit the wall in enough places, soon enough a weak spot will appear, and the whole thing will come crashing down. (I hope some Mexicans hear that and start assaulting the real wall – if it ever comes close to being built.)

Personally, I wrote to my two senators and my representative and asked them not to replace the ACA until a substitute plan is ready to be put in place. I explained how the ACA helped me, and how it is helping millions of Americans who will have no fallback position if it is repealed. I heard back from two of them. I don’t think I swayed them, but they did hear my voice, and some staffer added one more check to the “opposed” side in the repeal the ACA discussion.

Tell me your stories about what you’re doing to counteract the onslaught coming from the White House. I’d love to hear from you, and others will feel supported and emboldened by your stories.

Pick your battles? We gotta pick ’em all!

Lies, Damn Lies, and Tweets

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

— Mark Twain

President-elect Donald Trump has been using the same tactics with his tweets that other TV conservatives, like Rush Limbaugh and Kellyanne Conway use when speaking on air: throw out so many lies and twisting of facts that by the time you respond to the first, he is already on the fifth. At that point, responding to the first statement is being petty, because we need to be “moving on.”

With on-air personalities, unless the interviewer is able to interrupt and talk over the person (not even possible with Rush Limbaugh), you might not remember, let alone be able to counter, the statement. It seems like the only way to stop the parade of misinformation is to refuse to allow them to be interviewed. Networks are loath to do that; these commentators draw interest, and the networks want to appear to be even-handed and fair.

Journalists need to get back to their original motivation – to make sure the truth is heard. If they need to get all sides of the story to find the truth, they can do a filmed interview and edit it for their piece, instead of having them on the air live. If the story is primarily presenting facts, they don’t even need to provide an alternate point of view. Facts are facts, regardless of what people believe.

And, if the networks are being honest in their search for the truth, they need not respond to the constant claims of liberal bias in the mainstream media (a claim which has shown to be false numerous times – see The Phantom Menace (of Liberal Media Bias) ). They just need to be diligent in their methods and ignore any unfounded criticism. Maybe they can consider taking a page out of Trump’s playbook – sue for libel anyone who refers to the mainstream media as liberal. It is a false statement, and it is designed to lessen the value of the reporting, thus costing the company money. Those are the two elements required for a successful libel suit.

Trump’s tweets have already become legendary – and he’s not even President yet. Fortunately, there are only so many lies that can be spread in 140 characters. Still, the tweets often get covered by the media, and are not quickly or colorfully rebutted, that they have the desired effect of getting Trump’s version of the story out and making it stick. Short of Twitter banning Trump from having an account – a story that has been floating around the Internet, but is not true – it appears there is no way to react effectively.

To counter Trump’s tweets may require an army of tweeters. Fortunately, there already exists an army of tweeters who are opposed to Trump. Actually, it’s more like a militia, because it isn’t organized. Let me suggest that one way to counter the distortions present in Trump’s tweets is to rebut them quickly. If everyone who opposes Trump responds to his tweets, it would likely cause Twitter to crash.

We don’t need to have everyone respond to every post. If each person responds to, say, one a week, there would still be enough people making a big enough response to get the message across. Multiple rebuttals are likely to get more support than a single rebuttal. Psychology studies have shown that if everyone in a small group except for one person lies, the lone wolf is very likely to change his position to the lie, even if he knows it is a lie. Peer pressure on one person is simply too difficult for many people to go against. However, if a second person agrees with the lone wolf, the likelihood of maintaining an opinion different from the group as a whole rises tremendously. I suspect the same phenomenon would work the other way: if one person dissents, he will be ignored, but if there are multiple dissenters, people will start to take notice.

I know the number of people who read my blog is very small, but I encourage you to spread the word. We can redo the Faberge shampoo commercial from the ’80s: tell two people, and they’ll tell two people, and they’ll tell two people, and so on.

Let’s see what happens. I think it’s worth a shot.

Oh, and in the spirit of calling out fake news, the above quote was not initially said by Mark Twain. He popularized it in the United States, but the quote is attributed to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

When you’re taking a break from your tweeting, please leave me a comment.

A Message…

I’m becoming a big fan of Medium.com. The site is a compendium of articles, mostly opinion pieces, from various publications and diverse contributors. (There are guidelines for submitting stories. I will look into them, and may publish on there soon.)

This piece is from a Russian journalist, Alexey Kovalev. He is very clear that he is describing a Putin press conference, but see if you notice any parallels:

“A message to my doomed colleagues in the American media”

What Mr. Kovalev doesn’t do in his essay is discuss ways of combating these tactics. He may be limited in his actions, because he is Russian; we have more freedoms. I have been racking my brain trying to think of how to fight this. There must be a way. If you have thoughts on what to do, please comment. Maybe we can generate some good ideas and truly challenge Trump.

Because he needs to be constantly challenged.