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When President Obama was first sworn in eight years ago, I watched with mixed feelings.  I fully felt and shared the feelings and emotions of the crowd attending in feeling that history had reached a watershed moment, that a group whose members had been despised and put down had one of their own in the most powerful office of the land.  I fully supported what Obama the candidate had said and the positions he took.  And he spoke inspiringly well.  But, being the first black president of the United States put him under a huge burden, under the intense scrutiny of all.  I worried about how this man, Barak Hussein Obama, would do. Could he live up to this moment?

Many of those asking this question along with me would be more likely to hold him to a much higher standard and more quickly and easily criticize him than they would a white person due to unconscious bias.  Some of us, too many no matter their numbers, looked at him with hatred due to openly held and argued racism.  And then there were those whose ideology and political beliefs would not allow them to support President Obama, no matter how well he would do the job.

Added to this was that Obama was taking over a country suffering under the worst recession since the Great Depression.  A country that was bleeding from wars in the Middle East and in whom most of the world had little respect.  Given these challenges, the chances of failure were great, the burden of Presidency even heavier.  As the years passed though, President Barack Hussein Obama proved more than equal to these challenges and these burdens.

Through all these last eight years President Obama has presided with grace, dignity and poise.  While some may blow this off as just style over substance, the style is important.  It sets the tone of our nation.  It sets the impressions that those outside of the US see.  It can open or close doors to communication and understanding.

 

However, President Obama was much more than just style.   His presidency was one of substance too.  These are just a few of the many accomplishments of his administration.

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He managed our economy so that it came out of the recession more quickly and in better shape than almost any other industrial country in the world.  Yes, it was not perfect, but it was well done, and the best that could be done.  And it is still improving even at the end of his eight years:  unemployment down, pay checks rising, the stock market more than doubling, and record number of months with increased job creation.

In addition, he pushed for and signed into law stronger financial regulations that would help prevent another great recession such as the one he guided us out of; the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

President Obama also managed to pass massive healthcare reform, something that many presidents, both Republican and Democrat, had tried to do, and failed.   It is not perfect and it has flaws.  But, it is good, it is a step in the right direction, and it has provided millions and millions of Americans needed health care.  Lives have been saved; lives have been improved and made better, because of the Affordable Care Act.  It forms and could, if allowed, continue to form the basis of something much better.

President Obama made great strides towards providing equal rights towards gays.  Before President Obama gays had to serve secretly in the military and could not wed.  Now, they can proudly serve the US as themselves.  Now, they can wed the person they love, and openly love that person.

He improved our international standing through the use of diplomacy and new policies.  He ended the Iraq war and reduced our presence in Afghanistan.  He denounced and prohibited the use of torture.  He managed a new nuclear deal with Russia to reduce our nuclear arsenal.  He found and killed bin Laden.  He increased sanctions on Iran that led to a treaty on Iran’s nuclear program.

His administration has expanded opportunities for women in our country.

He has brought much needed light and discussion to racial issues still in existence in our country, including working to find ways to improve policing.

In regards to the environment, his administration not only helped craft and signed the Climate agreement in Paris, but has worked to reduce our carbon emissions, increase alternative energy use, improved our water and land usage, and increased our national parks.

President Obama has had no scandals in his administration or within his family – a first for a Presidential administration and family in a long, long time.

As I said, this is only a partial and incomplete listing of his accomplishments.

President Obama, like all Presidents, was not able to achieve all that he wished.  However, politics is the art of the possible.  Perfection, besides being beyond human ability, is also not possible in politics with so many differing, discordant, and conflicting views on what should and should not be done.

In regards to immigration, he was unable to get Congress to pass immigration reform.  But, he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act.

In regards to Guantanamo, he was unable to close it.  But, he was able to reduce its population from a peak of 700 prisoners to around 40 when he leaves office.

Like any President, he has had his failures.  Some of them large.  He has had policies and practices that I disagreed with, sometimes strongly.

However, through all of this he has handled successes and failures, progress and setbacks, with a calm dignity.  In addition he has handled the relentless insults and slanders and abuse directed at him with humor and aplomb, from the birther nonsense, to being called a liar by a Congressman during Obama’s speech to Congress, to portrayals of his wife as an ape and worse.

In fact, it was not only President Obama who has exhibited class and dignity, and an ability to communicate with Americans, but his whole family:  Michelle, Sasha, and Malia.   They have been one of the most positive family models in the White House in a long time.

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JFK’s presidency has often been referred to as Camelot, from an interview with Jacqueline Kennedy in which she stated that “There will be great presidents again.  But there will never be another Camelot.”    This was in reference to the musical Camelot, which had these lines at the end, as King Arthur goes out to fight his final battle, his kingdom in rack and ruin.

While President Obama’s presidency is far from lying in rack and ruin, I think the line that inspired this is appropriate.

“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”

It is not only his accomplishments, but his manner, his demeanor and that of his family that will last and continue to influence us for years to come.

History consists of a great many moments, some shining, some dark and ugly.  President Barack Hussein Obama’s election and time as our President was one of those shining moments.

Finally, a short blog.  At least, shorter than the other two.

First and foremost:

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Next:

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Now, big broad dramatic actions, while nice, are not necessary and are not what is going to turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people working on mundane and often boring tasks that will turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people donating time and money to organizations that work to protect our rights, our economy, our schools, our environment, our nation that will turn things around.  It will be us, the majority, who will turn things around.

National groups are nice, but look local too.  The Republican conservatives who support Trump control too many states, and that needs to change.

Write letters to your local paper, to your elected representatives at all levels from city to state to national.  This means be aware of what is happening both nationally and locally.  Join in local organizations that are working to improve the environment, poverty, homelessness, civil rights, and all of those things that are most in danger now.   If you are up to it, get involved in local boards on different subjects and problems.  Volunteer to testify on issues that most concern you – locally in city councils to testifying before state committees.

 

For myself, I have never registered as a Democrat or Republican, preferring to be considered an Independent.  And early one there were Republicans who I could and did vote for.  However, those have vanished over the years as the Republican Party became more radically conservative and radically right religious.

So, for the first time in my life, I will become a registered Democrat and work with the local party here in Beaumont.  There are other things I will be doing, and there are a great many groups and organizations that you could become a part of.  Here is just a short and not even remotely exhaustive list of them linked to their websites, in no particular order.

 

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Common Cause

National Center for Science Education

Texas Freedom Network –  for those living in Texas, this is a group I have worked with before and will become more active in now.

Planned Parenthood

Sierra Club

Friends of the Earth

National Organization for Women

League of Women Voters

American Civil Liberties Union

Southern Poverty Law Center

Center for Responsive Politics

Campaign Zero

Black Lives Matter

 

This is not a complete listing by far.  It barely scratches the surface in fact and doesn’t even cover all the areas of concern.  Look and find something that fits your interests and greatest concerns.

And, perhaps most important of all, remember we are all Americans.  We are all human.  Look at your neighbor, at your town, your city, your county, your parish, your state, and your country, and be aware of whatever threatens your neighbors well being whether it involves civil liberties and equal treatment under the law, the environment in which we all share, education or any of host of other areas that look like they may well be under attack during a Trump Presidency.

Because of this, of our shared humanity and identity as Americans, seriously consider even going beyond if things go badly.  If the Trump administration starts a registry for Muslims, register as Muslims.  If President Trump voids the Dream Act, write and call and protest – demonstrations and marches in solidarity with those who are most affected.  If you are white, go ahead and march in a Black Lives Matter protest.  If you are black, then demonstrate in support of that 18 year old American college student brought here from Mexico when she was 3 but being deported now, if you are an Atheist march with and in support of the American Muslims and the refugees.  Let your voice and presence be heard and seen in as many ways as possible.

Be aware and act.   And vote.  Vote in local elections.  In state elections.  And in National ones.  And, hopefully, we can blunt the damage that I fear is coming.  And in 2016 start to not only blunt but turn it around.

In my first blog on this series I went over why I did not believe a Trump presidency would degenerate into a dictatorship.  What I will be going over here are what I consider to be the more realistic fears of what a Trump Presidency will bring.

I do not know if any or all of these will happen as I am waiting for some actual policies and actions on Trump’s part.  And to see how Congress, the courts, and the public respond to them. However, based on his past comments, statements, and actions during the campaign and based upon his current tweets and actions, his calls to foreign leaders, his refusal to listen to experts and those with experience, and his appointments so far, I tend to be more pessimistic on how bad it is going to be rather than optimistic.   What actually happens though depends on a large number of things interacting in complex ways, and until we actually see how they work out when Trump actually assumes the office, it is hard to say how bad.

 

Race and Civil Rights

While there will be no government actions against minorities (except possibly Muslims), there will be an increase in private groups and organizations and in individual actions against blacks and Hispanics.  The federal government will no longer be willing to fully investigate these incidents and will definitely not investigate possible instances of bias and discrimination among law enforcement or government agencies and businesses.  This will result in a greater distrust of the police and of government overall by minorities than we have now, with increased tension and outbreaks of violence.   And this administration most definitely will not be interested in looking at such things as bias in hiring, in employment, and other such places.

As for Muslims, there may well be some sort of registry.  I do not think that it will advance to actual internment camps though, there is too much opposition to that, even among many Republicans.  But, registration, yes.  Also, quite possibly intensified surveillance of Muslim individuals and groups just because they are Muslim and not due to any real intelligence.

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Just as bad as the registration though is the ill thought out comments from President Trump on Muslims and terrorism, and from his administration and many Republicans.  Comments that will sow distrust and fear that will likely result in actions by individuals and groups against Muslims – protests against Muslims, Mosques, etc.  Add to this efforts by many state and local governments to limit their freedom of worship by refusing them permits to build Mosques and cemeteries and schools, or to limit the wearing of the burqa.  And guess what, a possible increase in recruitment for Islamic terrorist groups and an increase in lone wolf incidents from Muslims due to these playing right into their propaganda and recruitment pitch.

As for gay marriage, that is here to stay from what I can see.  However, crafting and enforcing laws limiting LGBT rights in the guise of protecting religious freedom – oh yeah, that will be going full speed ahead.  Especially when you consider that the Evangelical Christian Republicans supporting Trump are against LGBT rights and that Mike Pence has tried to limit such rights when he was governor of Indiana.  My expectation is that Pence is going to have more say and power than any vice-president in history during Trump’s term.  And guess what, that is not good for the LGBT community.

Women’s rights.  Also not good.  Expect that access to effective birth control will become harder to get, mainly because of cost with it being most likely cut out of Obamacare.  Further, expect more restrictions on the right of a woman to decide what to do with her body, in other words abortion.  Trump has said he is fine with letting it go to the states, which is not good.  Most states have laws just waiting for such an event that would outlaw most abortions.  Even without that expect more and more restrictions.  Also, expect less sympathy and support from the federal government on workplace inequalities.  This, of course, holds not just for women but also for minorities.

Overall, not a good time for civil rights that apply equally to all of our citizens.   As a result, I consider it very possible that there will be a large increase in demonstrations (and a real possibility that I may be joining in on a few).  Also, I consider it possible that strong arm responses on the part of law enforcement and government will become more likely.

Oh, and it was just announced that Ben Carson was put in charge of HUD.  So much for fair housing, for finding ways to help the poor and needy, and for having an effective and working HUD.  Again, minorities taking the brunt of it.

 

The Economy

Unless you are very rich, do not expect good things from a Trump presidency.   And even then, in the worse case scenarios even the wealthy are going to have difficulties.

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First, look at who Trump has appointed to his administration.  All very wealthy individuals for the most part.  Indeed, his administration will be the richest by far of any administration.  This does not mean that they will be bad in and of itself, but it does mean that they are more likely to look out for their own interests.  This is especially true for Trump.

And conflicts of interest are every where you look.  And that was an argument used against Hillary?  Oh, and there is a former Goldman Sachs person in his administration too.  And quite possibly an Exxon CEO for Secretary of State.

This gloomy assessment of the future state of our economy is buttressed by the tax changes he proposed during his campaign.  The poor and middle class will see a 2% or less increase in bring home pay.  The very wealthy will receive at least a 16% increase.  Wowza.  Oh, and that’s not to mention the fact that our deficits and national debt will balloon.  But what the hell, let the plundering of our economy by the rich begin in earnest.

In some ways, this reminds me a bit of the hand off of the economy from Bill Clinton to W. Bush.  Bush inherited a strong economy with a surplus that was actually reducing the debt.  And due in part to his tax cuts, we wound up with deficits and increased debt.  Only, this hand off has the potential to be a lot worse under President Trump than it did under President W. Bush.

Add to the above President elect Trump’s threats to engage in trade wars, and the outlook for our economy looks worse and more worse.  Historically such actions have resulted in large recessions with the loss of millions of private sectors jobs, mostly among the lower paying workers and non-skilled jobs.

Worse case, it could even negatively affect the whole world economy, for the worse.  The US has actually recovered from the recession in much better shape than most other industrial nations.  Many of them are still on the edge right now, and us going under like this could also cause them to also go under, precipitating a world-wide economic crisis.

Of course, a lot of this is dependent upon whether he follows through on his campaign promises or not.  If not, then we will have to wait and see what replaces it.  It is possible that he will not be a total disaster here.  Instead, it would be just Bush bad.  But, I think it could well be worse than just bad.

Although his not following through on this would, again, be a broken campaign promise, one that also, again, was highly touted repeatedly by Trump.  Between this and backing off on the wall and immigration and on prosecuting Hillary I wonder how much of his base he can keep.

 

Education

Short answer – vouchers, voucher, vouchers.  Less money and support for public schools.   More sympathy for creationism and official school prayers.  Now, how far will it go is pure guesswork at this point.  The vast majority of voucher plans when put to the vote at the state level have failed.  And creationism has lost every court battle so far, and the courts are not going to be changed that quickly.

There will, of course, be none of this nonsense about protecting transgendered students now.  Nor support for gay students.  But, there may well be more attempts and support for getting Christianity officially back into the schools instead of being neutral.

 

Separation of Church and State

I expect it to be weakened, but not destroyed.  Not sure yet in what form, although many of the items I already discussed have elements of this in them.  But, given the fact that conservative evangelical Christians largely supported him, that his Vice President if a conservative Christian favorite, and that the Republicans as a party owe a great deal to the conservative evangelical Christians…then yeah, expect some cracks to show on the wall.

Keep in mind though that many Christians, including evangelicals, understand why the separation of church and state are so important for all people’s freedoms.  Keep in mind that there are a great many more people who are not conservative Christian evangelicals than are.  Keep in mind that we are a religious diverse nation, and getting more so.  And, that the courts today and for the next few years are the same ones who have done a basically good job of protecting that wall.

 

The Environment

To continue a running theme, short answer, not good.

I imagine the EPA will become more like the Environmental It’s OK Go Ahead and Do It.   I expect our environment to take a  major hit, with, of course, an increase in health problems and issues.  Not to mention a loss of biologic diversity.  And trying to limit the damage from Climate Change and preparing on how best to deal with it will now fall upon the individual states, cities, and businesses.  It will no longer be a national effort, with the result being a loss in impact and effectiveness.  A huge problem now becomes bigly huge.

Foreign Affairs

In short, as with the others, so very not good.

Trump is ignorant of diplomacy and of world affairs.  Ignorance is not something to be ashamed of though, as long as you are aware of it and work to change your ignorance to knowledge.  Trump though shows no sign of this.  Even worse, he thinks he knows it all already.

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He knows more than all of our intelligence organizations and agencies.   He knows more than our generals and military.  He does not bother with most of the daily intelligence briefs.  He calls and takes calls from world leaders without bothering with getting information from the State Department.

And he tweets.

He tweets and attacks other countries through his tweets.

Between his egotistical ignorance, his fragile ego that cannot ignore a slight no matter how slight such that he has to fire back at a TV show, his lack of discipline, his aggressiveness, his questioning of our allies and those organizations and treaties that help hold our alliances …. all of this and more make war more likely under President Trump than any recent president.  Accidentally or on purpose.

Due to his policies and penchant for isolationism, I see both Russia and China moving in and becoming more prominent in world affairs at the expense of the US.  And of democracies in general.

In other words, I think it a realistic to see a more unstable world during Trump’s presidency.

 

OK, that’s my down and dirty worse case realistic expectations of a Trump Presidency.  I realized I have not provided any supporting arguments for these, but that is not my purpose here (besides which it would increase an already long blog at least tenfold).  Here I am just outlining what I think are some real possibilities with Trump as president.  And I realize it is incomplete.

Now, a few things to note here.  The first is that all of this is something that the US can survive.  And still remain a great nation.  A cracked, bleeding, and damaged great nation, but still.  We are too big economically and militarily, have too many strong institutions internally for us to be totally gutted.  So, we will survive and can and will recover.  But, we will have to suffer through a lot of pain and tears and blood, and almost terminal national embarrassment before we do recover.

The next thing to note is that I could be wrong.  It might not be any worse than any other conservative Republican administration.  I don’t think it likely, but it might happen that way when all is said and done.  In fact, I greatly hope that I am wrong.

Finally the above is my realistic worse case scenario.  Whether these actually play out, or how bad they are if they do play out, depends on a great many things – one of which is what we do.  Which is the subject of my third and last blog of this series.

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Let me end this one with what I think we will most likely wind up with under President Trump – a Kakistocracy.  That is a Greek word I just came across that means seems to sum up my thoughts about a Trump Presidency fairly well.  It means a government run by the worst elements of society – the unscrupulous and the unqualified.

I have seen several people express fears about Trump becoming a dictator and the US become something similar to what Nazi Germany was under Hitler.  That we will lose our freedoms; of speech, of religion, of assembly, to vote.  That our free press will become bound and gagged.

 

While I recognize the similarities between Trump and Hitler, and while acknowledging a dictatorship is a possibility, I strongly disagree on it being probable.  Many things are possible, only a few are really probable.  So, given the many concerns I have seen expressed about this, I thought I would first explain why I do not believe it will happen.  Then I will explain what I think are the more probable consequences of Trump’s election and give what I consider a more realistic worst case scenario Finally, I will go over  what needs to happen to prevent or at least mitigate this more realistic worse case scenario from happening.

 

This is going to be a long blog so I am breaking it down into each of these component parts to form three blogs on the same subject.

 

Why the United States will not go the way of Nazi Germany

While there are similarities between Hitler and Trump, and in how they rose to power, there are also differences.  However, more important than these differences is the difference between our country now and Germany during the rise of Hitler.  People such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon,  George Washington, and Hitler come to power not only by the force of their personality or by how they do things, but also as the result of their times.  Put those same people in another setting and they may, and probably will, fail.  Greatness or notoriety do not arise in a vacuum.

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Now, there are some similarities between Germany then and the US today.  Both peoples were and are frustrated with their government.   They feel and felt that it was ineffectual, that it could not address the problems of the times, and that things were getting worse.  And there is a similarity in that, while Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat for many of the Weimar Republic’s problems, many of Trump’s supporters use the illegal alien and Muslims as scapegoats.  And for the more racist of Trump supporters, blacks.

 

However, the similarities are limited, both in number, in intensity, and in scope.  For example, in Germany then:

 

  • Germany became a democracy in 1919. In 1933, when Hitler rose to power and the Nazi Party won the most seats in the German Parliament, the German People only had 14 years of experience with democracy.   Their prior experience was with a dictatorial government, and that was what they were comfortable with.  Or at least more familiar with, and, more importantly, associated with a government that actually worked.  When democracy did not seem to be working and unable to solve the many problems the German people face, they set up no outcry with the onset of emergency powers and the suspension of rights.
    • The US has, counting from the ratification of the US Constitution, over 230 years of democratic experience. We have faced numerous challenges from the beginning.  And through each one, we, as a people, did not wave from our commitment to democracy.  Even in the midst of our worst crisis, the Civil War, we held open and honest elections.  Our expectations are different and backed up by over 200 years of democracy surviving through war, riots, the Great Depression, immense social upheaval, and all the other detritus that we have found ourselves in.
  • Even worse, democracy in Germany did not arise from the people as it did here in the US. It was imposed upon the German people by the victors of WW2.  Because of that most of the German people of the time did not trust or really believe in democracy.  It was never theirs, never their government.
  • To make matters even more difficult, their politicians had no experience with democracies.
    • Even at our start, the founders and the colonials had some experience in democracies. And we have had over 200 years more experience now.
  • The German people were humiliated by the very demeaning terms of the Versailles Treaty. The war reparations imposed on them were economically impossible and crippling.  In 1923 the Allies grew tired of Germany’s inability to pay these reparations and occupied the Ruhr Valley, Germany’s industrial heartland.  And, instead of blaming their wartime leaders for this, the German people tended to blame the German politicians that arose out of this humiliating defeat.
    • Our democracy did not arise out of defeat, but out of victory. And we have not been defeated in the manner that Germany was, and have never been humiliated in such a fashion.
  • To add to this, Germany faced a disastrous number of problems. We look back to our Great Depression as being a terrible time for the US.  However, Germany had it even worse (something I sometimes have a hard time convincing my parents of).   Unemployment in 1932 was almost 31%.   German citizens had to contend with hyperinflation (with many staples such a bread costing 100 billion marks) and millions lived in abject poverty and thousands of children died of hunger.
    • Our economy today, by contrast, is actually strong. Our economic numbers are good.  Now, the problem today for the US is that it is not strong everywhere, and that the recovery has left too many people behind.  Further, with the changes in society and business – mainly automation, the change from coal to natural gas, and globalization – many Americans are left feeling angry and frustrated.  Yet, most people in this country are actually doing better.  Our situation today is a far cry from Germany, and while there is enough frustration to allow the election of a Trump, there is not enough widespread frustration to allow him to dismantle our democracy.  Especially as the results of his policies become clear.
  • The German Constitution at that time had a provision allowing the President to take emergency measures and issue emergency decrees without the consent of the German legislature. This was supposed to be limited to certain emergencies. However, given the state of Germany at the time, emergencies were plentiful.
    • The US Constitution has no such provision. There is a provision for the declaration of martial law by the President or Congress in the Constitution.  However, nationally, it has only been used once.  During the Civil War Congress approved most of the martial law measures enacted by President Lincoln.  During WW2, there was a partial enactment of martial law- some of which were overturned by the courts and those arrested and held then released. Others though, lamentably, were upheld (the internment of US citizens of Japanese descent).

So, the US has twice used martial law, both times during war.  Yes, there have been other declarations of martial law, but they have been made by governors at a state level and not nationally by the federal government.

Further, while the President could declare martial law, Congress still has the power to deny it or overturn it. And the state of martial law is challenged the Supreme Court could overturn it too.  Such provisions and safeguards not present in the German Constitution in 1932.

  • In Germany at that time it was expected that laws did not have to conform to the Constitution as long as it had the support of two thirds of parliament. This made it easier to pass laws that limited rights and abridged freedoms.
    • The US has no such expectation. In fact, that is totally contrary to both our expectations and practice.
  • Finally, in terms of at least going over the differences between Germany then and the US today, Trump is not Hitler. He shares many of the same traits, but he is not Hitler.  For one, Hitler was motivated by an ideology.  Trump, by his ego.  While many bad things are likely to happen, I do not think Trump would take it to the extremes that Hitler did – state sponsored terrorism against certain groups of citizens –  since his motivation is different.

 

In addition to the above differences, there are some political and social realities which would keep Trump from becoming a dictator.

  • The majority of the voters voted for Hillary for President and more voters voted for Democrats than Republicans in the Senate. This indicates an already large group of people opposed to Trump and what he represents.  And provides the base for trying to limit the damage he and his administration does, and to ensure that he is, at best, a one term president
  • While the Republicans, especially of the Tea Party variety, are lining up behind him now, there are significant divisions within the party. Divisions which would create strong problems in regards to privatizing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Even the “dismantling” of Obamacare has to be handled with care.    Millions of Americans are already beneficiaries of it, millions are on the expanded Medicaid rolls.  Millions of people who would be hurt if it were just stopped.
  • Getting passage of controversial bills in the Senate is especially going to be challenging. There will be 46 Democrat Senators and 52 Republican ones (two Senators are independent).  This means on the issues that are really controversial, there are likely going to be some Republicans who will not go along.  They with the Democrats will be able to block some bills.  And nominees.
  • Trump has already backed off on some of his prominent promises – building he wall, prosecuting Hillary for example. And he is starting to receive criticism for it from those who supported him.  They are not dropping him yet, but they are starting to be unhappy with some of his decisions.  I imagine as it sinks in that most of his administration are not only rich and well connected, but extremely rich, and that they vote to their own benefit, this will become even more pronounced.
  • Those who elected him expect things from him.  For example, the coal miners.  Trump promised them they would all get their jobs back.  His method for doing this – do away with environmental regulations.  The problem, those regulations were not why the coal miners were not working.  They are not working because natural gas prices dropped as our supply increased.  How do you imagine those coal miners will feel about Trump when they realize that he did not keep his promise?   Then extend this to the economy as a whole, and what will happen if, as I expect, the economy goes bad under him.
  • I know that many are concerned about Trump and the Supreme Court. Currently there is one vacancy, which means it will probably be a conservative along the lines of Scalia.  But, that does not set us back any further than before since we have been living with that for years.  And that was a court that gave us gay marriage, upheld abortion rights, and decided that Obamacare was legal.
    • Now, if another vacancy comes up, that will be the time to worry. But, I do not look for any of the more liberal justices to be retiring until the next president comes along.  We might lose one due to health or death, but not retirement.  And, keep in mind, that there are enough democrats that they still can make it difficult to get too outrageous a candidate to become Justice.   It would not be good, but he cannot pack the court with Justices who would go along with him becoming a dictator (although they could go along with many other bad things though)
    • I would also note that on Trump’s idea to imprison those who burn the American flag, Justice Scalia had this to say: “If I were king I wouldn’t go about letting people burn the American Flag. However, we have a first amendment which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged, and it is addressed, in particular to speech critical of the government.   I mean, that was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress.”

I could go on for quite a bit longer.  We have a robust freedom of the press.  I am sure that Trump will try to limit that, and may well get a few victories.  However, there is still the independent judiciary.  Further, if you look at freedom of the press may go backwards many decades, but not to the point where the media becomes the puppet and totally under the control of the President.

 

In fact, overall, that is the more realistic scenario that I discuss in my next blog on this subject; that we will not have a dictator but instead many of the social gains and progress, many of the civil rights gains and progress will wind up being pushed back decades, possible even to a similar state as the turn of the 20th century in many ways.  That our economy is ruined and  taking the world’s economy with it.  And the increased possibility of wars.

 

Those are realistic worse case scenarios.  But, Trump becoming a dictator and the United States a fascist dictatorship, or a dictatorship of any kind – no, that is not realistic at all.

I had an interesting and enlightening conversation the other day with an older black woman.  I found it so because of the light it shines into one reason why so many blacks distrust the police and our justice system.

This woman is, as I said an older black woman.  She has grandchildren, one of whom is 27.  She was married to a man in the Air Force and did quite a bit a traveling until he died unexpectedly in the 90s.  She has a degree in Social Service and Political Science.

During the course of our conversation she related this story about her father.  Or more accurately, her father’s murder.  It happened when she was 13.  And it happened here in Texas.   And it happened in a sundown city.

For those too young or who may have never come across this adjective before, a sundown city was a city or town that had posted a sign stating some version of the following:

“Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In [Insert name of city here]”.

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There were over 10,000 of these cities across the US up until the late 60s.  The city where I currently reside was one such, and, at least until the late 90s, was still a prime area for the KKK.  Today I still see a large number of confederate flags around.  These cities though were not limited to the south but extended to Glendale, California and up to Levittown, NY.  Indeed, most of the towns in Illinois were Sundown cities.

In fact, there were so many of these cities, and so many areas where the Jim Crow laws were strongly enforced, and so many areas where police were more threat than protection for blacks, so many areas where blacks just disappeared, that a book called the “Negro Motorist Green Book” was published annually from 1936 through 1966 by a New York travel agent named Victor H. Green.

This handy book was for blacks traveling in the United States.   This book warned the black traveler of the worse areas (at least the known ones) and about the specific dangers of that area.  It also provided the names of hotels and restaurants that would not serve blacks, and of car repair shops that would not fix their vehicles.

Just stop for a moment and try to imagine this; the country into which you were born, the country of which you are a citizen, the country in which you live and work and raise a family, this country that is supposedly yours too being so dangerous for you that you need a guidebook to help navigate its perils in as much safety as possible.  A guide for traveling in a dangerous country.  One not needed for its white citizens.

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And all of this going on until the mid 1960s.

Just stop and think of that too.  The mid 1960s is not ancient history.  It is not something from our founding.  It is recent history, a history of which millions of Americans (including myself) have personal memory of.

As does this black woman I met.

Which now brings us to what happened to her father in the not so distant past, a past that is recent in fact, recent in both years and memory.  What happened to her father when she was 13?

Or to ask another way, what happened to blacks who were caught in those sundown towns after dark?  If they were lucky they were picked up and arrested by the police, then either escorted out or jailed, and possibly roughed up.  If they were unlucky, then much worse happened; as happened to this woman’s father.

He was found the next morning strung up by his ankles from a tree.  He had been gutted and his intestines soaked the ground under him.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles had been cut off.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles were not near him as his intestines were.  They were missing entirely.  The sheriff told this woman’s mother that they were probably fed to the pigs.

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This happened within living memory.

Yes, we have changed laws and processes to reduce and de-institutionalize these more overt forms of racism and bias.  But, do those who would deny that racism plays any significant role today in hiring, in education, in justice, in law enforcement, in society; do those who would argue that there is no real racism in our institutions other than what is being played up and stoked up by trouble makers and liberals out to make political hay; do those people really believe that such deeply embedded institutions, deeply held beliefs, deeply held hatreds, do they really believe that these can be changed as quickly and as easily as a law?

Really?

Laws change more easily and more quickly than attitudes.  Laws change more easily than institutions.

The 1960s were the start of significant and needed changes in regards to race in our country.  But a start is not the finish.  To pretend that it is, to deny this basic fact is then to work to undo that start and push us back to that a different version of that recent past.

The vast majority of blacks realize that the changes needed to enact true and equal justice for all regardless of color is still only in its beginnings.  They have the stories of their still living mothers and fathers, the stories of their still living grandmothers and grandfathers, the stories of their still living uncles and aunts and cousins to tell them so. Stories of loss, of denial, of pain and suffering, of injustice backed by government and institutions, stories of death.

Stories that are reinforced and proven true in their daily lives today.  And by the fact that

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so many whites deny them the lessons of both their personal history and their own current experiences.

They have good reason to be distrustful of police, of the justice system, and of our government overall.   It has been changed, but not totally reformed.  And they remember.  As should we all.

 

Recently I got into a discussion with some die hard Hillary haters about Hillary’s honesty.  In some ways debating these people reminds me  of the days when I debated creationists; their use of cherry picked facts and evidence, the omission of relevant information, the slanting of the evidence, and most especially the overly simplistic and black and white nature of their views.  And just like creationists, if you concede a point they often take it and run with it, proclaiming victory is ours.

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Which is one of the reasons why I got myself into the mindset of not ceding any ground in this debate about Hillary’s honesty, even at the expense of being completely truthful.

Another reason for why I let myself get into this position is that the truth is often complicated and takes some time to explain fully.  It is rarely purely black and white and even more rarely simplistic as the Hillary haters and creationists like.

So, for both of those reasons I overextended myself in my claims and defense of Hillary’s basic honesty.  Hence, this long mea culpa post – to more fully explain why, while not perfectly and totally honest, I consider Hillary a basically honest person and politician.

At the time of the aforesaid discussion with the Hillary haters, I had already pointed out that Hillary did not lie when she claimed in her website bio that “After law school, Hillary could have taken a high-paying job in Washington or New York. But instead, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund.”

As evidence that this was a lie the Hillary haters cited part of her memoir “Living History’ where she wrote:

“I had taken both the Arkansas and Washington D.C. bar exams during the summer, but my heart was pulling me toward Arkansas. When I learned that I had passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought that maybe my test scores were telling me something.”

The Hillary haters argued that this showed that her working for the Children’s Defense Fund was not a choice but a necessity since she could not have taken a ‘high-paying job in Washington or New York” since she did not pass the Washington D.C. bar exams.

However, these Hillary haters overlooked some facts in their rush to severe judgment.

First, read the bit from her memoir again.  Did you note that she said that her “heart was pulling me towards Arkansas”?

Now, combine that sentence with these two facts.

Fact one, anywhere from 10% to 40%, dependent on where it is being taken, of people fail the bar exam the first time they take it. Many subsequently go on and take the bar exam and pass it a second time.  This is not a one time test.

Further note, that she did pass the Arkansas bar exam.  I am not sure how many people take two bar exams at the same time, but very few I would imagine since the material covered and needed to be studied would vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  And I would also imagine this would increase the percentage of those who fail at least one of the two.

Fact two, her interest in children and working with them goes at least back to her high school days where she volunteered to baby sit the children of migrant workers.  During law school Hillary volunteered at Yale’s Child Study Center to learn about childhood brain development.  Further, she also took up cases of child abuse at the New Haven Hospital and provided free legal service to the poor.

In other words, working with children has long been a strong passion for Hillary.

Now, putting this all together, the one sentence and two facts, I would say it would be reasonable to believe that she purposely decided NOT to try for the Washington DC  bar exam again.  I would also say it would be reasonable to conclude that she chose not to at least partly on the basis of following her heart.

Which means that there is no rational basis to say that Hillary lied on this.  Unless, of course, you already have a strong aversion to all things Hillary.

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The other area where I felt I successfully defended Hillary’s honesty is, of course, Benghazi.  Specifically on the claim about whether Hillary told Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the victims of Benghazi attack, was the result of a video.

Fact one, while Mrs. Smith and some of the other families did say that Hillary did mention a video as the cause of the attack, several of the other families do not remember her talking about a video.  They do, however, remember Hillary crying and being sincere in her sympathy.

Fact two, the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens have come out strongly in support of Hillary on this and on the whole Benghazi issue.

Fact three, after this meeting with the families of the victims Hillary did state:

“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

Please remember there were attacks on two embassies that day, one in Cairo which most definitely was caused by the video, and the other by terrorists, although at the time she made this statement the idea that the video had a role to play in this attack was still in play.

Fact four, at the time of Hilary’s meeting with the families, the situation surrounding the attack at the compound was still unclear.  In fact, according to multiple investigations run by Republicans, the cause of the attack was not totally resolved until the day after Hillary’s meeting with the families.

Yes, but what about Hillary’s e mail to Chelsea stating that the attack was carried out by terrorists.  Well, that brings me to fact five.  Initially an al Qaeda affiliated group claimed 65989-56396responsibility for the attack.  This was the basis of Hillary’s e mail to her daughter.  However, this group later retracted their claim.

 

Fact six, there were several bits of conflicting information in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack.  I know, because I was trying to keep up with them in real time.  Further, the multiple investigations also showed this conflicting information.

In fact, what is of interest is that Hillary, while believing that Benghazi was a terrorist attack does believe that the video did have a role to play, probably as a motivating factor.  A belief several other experts share, probably because of the fact that some of the actual attackers stated that the video was part of their motivation for attacking the compound.

So, I believe that Hillary sincerely believes she did not say anything about the video being the cause of the Benghazi attack.  However, in this emotional moment with the tears and the sorrow and the seeking of answers, Hillary may have mentioned the video without saying it was the reason for the attack.  Or, this could have been woven into the memory of those families who remember the video being stated as the causes through other sources, possibly even Hillary’s comments after the meeting that I quoted above.

Memory is not a fixed thing.  Our brains do not faithfully record events as they happen.  This is especially true when there are strong emotions involved.  Mistakes are made and remembered as true when they are not.

In this regard, it is important to note that someone can be mistaken and still not be a liar.  In fact, that is what Hillary has said of those families who remember her blaming the attack on the video, that they made a mistake due to the confusing and conflicting amount of information going around at a time of strong emotions.

Perhaps a simple example would help.  This is something that happened many years ago to my father.  He and a friend were walking in a city park (I cannot remember which) when they saw from across the park a car hit another car and then drive away.  When giving their statements to the police they both said they clearly remembered the color of the car that did the hit and run.  My father said one color, his friend said a completely different color.

Now, do I believe that one of them was lying?  No.  One of them had made a mistake, something quite common with memory.  In fact, it is quite possible that both of them are wrong.

The take away from this is that one can be wrong, but still not be a liar.  That applies to my father and his friend,  to those families who remember Hillary stating that a video was the cause of the attack, and to Hillary who states she did not say that.  For that matter, it applies to all of us.

Bottom line on this, I do not believe that either Hillary or the mother,  Mrs. Smith, are lying.

 

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Now, we come to my mea culpa.  The point at which I defended that which I should not have.  A lie of Hillary’s.  This lie involves her statements about not sending confidential e mails on an unsecure server.

Part of what makes this an interesting question is the Hillary haters have been using it to say that Hillary lied and perjured herself in testimony before Congress.  My answer was and continues to be that she probably did not.

What? I can hear you say.  This is the bit where you are supposed to be writing about Hillary lying.  And so I will, because I do believe that she is lying now in regards to not sending confidential e mails.   The reason for this distinction lies in FBI Director James Comey’s statements regarding Hillary’s e mail system, both his initial statement on the findings of the investigation and his subsequent testimony before Congress.

What is of most relevance here is that in his statement about the investigation and in later Congressional testimony is that only a few of these confidential e mails were marked as classified.  Further, the way they were marked is with a small “c” beside the classified material rather than a header proclaiming it classified.

In his Congressional testimony Comey further testified that if someone is not familiar with the rules regarding the handling of classified information, it is entirely possible that they may not have known what the “c” stood for and assumed that if it did not have Classified at the top that it was not.

As he said, this was sloppy and careless.  However, it does mean that Hillary may have honestly testified before Congress that she did not send any classified e mail.  At that time, she believed she had not.

An aside here – there are some Hillary haters that take being sloppy on security means being sloppy in all areas, a generalization that is not justified.  Especially since Comer in his report and the internal audit done by the State Department showed that the State Department had been rather lax about classified material.  This includes the time period before Hillary became the head of the State Department.  This would have also contributed to her belief that she was not sending classified material.

However, this was at the Congressional Hearings which were held before Comey released his findings and recommendations.  And this is where we now get into the bit where Hillary is lying.

She is still saying that she did not lie and was absolved.  Not quite.  And with Comey’s statement before her she knows it.  So, today she is lying.

And this is what I tried to defend.  I included it with my arguments about the Congressional testimony when I should not have.

So yes, Hillary is lying today when she talks about not sending classified material.

Now, what makes this instructive and interesting is the light it sheds on certain political truths.  This sort of lying is called spin and all politicians engage in it.  The only real difference is in how they engage in it and how often.

Hillary has taken note of part of Comey’s report while ignoring other parts to provide a narrative more favorable to her.  As I said, this is something every politician does and that every politician in a democracy has to do to a greater or lesser extent.

In fact, in my next blog I plan to argue that in any democracy – no matter the country, no matter the time – politicians have to lie.  It is an integral part of being a politician in a tumblr_m5hfehtGNj1r7wa9pdemocratic system.  I will only put this out there for your consideration here and wait for my blog to develop the argument for this claim.

However, that means that the divider between politicians is not between whether one is totally honest and the other lies, but, instead, between how often they lie and about what subjects.

As I have discussed above, on two out of three items in which Hillary haters have claimed she lied, she actually hasn’t.  On the third one, she probably was speaking truthfully at the Congressional hearings, or at least there is enough information from Comey to raise a reasonable doubt in any impartial jury looking at criminal charges for her for perjury.  But, she is not now when discussing these e mails.

Using that criteria, how often Hillary lies, Hillary is actually one of our more honest politicians.  According to Politifact, of all the Presidential candidates both Republican and Democrat, Hillary was the most honest (although both Bernie Sanders and John Kasich came very close to being as honest).

And that is part of why I believe Hillary to be a basically honest person.  I also believe this throws some light on something most have overlooked about our political system.  Namely that dishonesty is a basic part of the process and has always been so and will probably always be so.  But more on that in a later blog.

 

I am getting freaking fed up with the amount of digital thinking I am seeing today.  I have never been a fan of it and argued against it, but now I am also seeing it creep more and more into the political arena with possible disastrous consequences for the United States.

 

First though, what do I mean by digital thinking?  Actually this is a term I use that conflates two closely related mistakes in reasoning.

One such mistake is the all or nothing fallacy one is either one thing or the other.

The other mistake is the belief that if one part of something is wrong then the whole of it is wrong.

These are known by several other names in works about logical fallacy, but I like the term digital thinking.  Both assume a binary sort of thinking – something either is or is not.  Something is either red of white.   Something either is a democracy or not (my latest interesting discussion).

However, most of life, and especially our social structures and personal lives are analogue.  There is a continuum of possibilities.  In fact, often it is more than one continuum as one possibility branches off and creates its own continuum.  It is why life is often so complex and messy.

For example, in regards to red and white, there is pink.  In fact, there are a range of pinks ranging from more red than white to being almost white, with the dividing line between red/pink/white being a very subjective judgement.

In evolution, a scientific finding that the evolutionary tree of man was incorrect and that this species actually was not our ancestor or that this one was does not disprove evolution.  Evolution consists of multiple strands of evidence with some strands being of more importance than others.  It is not either all correct of none of it is correct.  Changing our views on who our ancestors were based on new fossil evidence is not critical to the fact of evolution since it is so well supported by thousands of other strands of evidence.  Nor was unexpected finding of dinosaur proteins fatal to evolution as some creationists assumed.  It showed, instead, that our ideas of proteins and fossilization was wrong; there was actually very little evidence for our ideas about the possibility of finding proteins in ancient bones whereas there is a great deal of evidence for how ancient those bones were.

The same is true with Climate Change.  Those who deny it like to point to the Antarctic actually growing instead of melting as evidence that climate change is wrong.  Their thinking is that if any part of it is wrong then the whole is.  Which ignores all the other evidence that strongly supports the theory of Climate Change. Part of it can be wrong, but the whole still be correct.

It is not only in the sciences you find this.  You also find it in conversations and judgements about our government and social issues.

To some, if you argue for gun control then you must be for banning all guns and confiscation of such.  All or nothing.  Similar arguments for the other side.  The same holds true for anti-vaccers, GMO, and other issues.  Usually you can find examples from both sides of the issue engaging in this digital sort of thinking.

However, as this is getting longer than I intended, let me cut to the chase.  Hillary Clinton.

I am so freaking tired of having people point to her speeches to Wall Street companies and the donations she gets from big business and say “See, she is not really liberal.  She is no different from Republicans.  From Trump.”

As if her prior actions as Senator and as first lady and throughout her life as well as the positions she takes doesn’t matter in evaluating her.   For the digital thinker, if she takes big business money in any way, shape, fashion, or form then she is like the Republicans.  Digital thinking at its finest – which is not a good thing.

Or they point to  her e mail and say “See, she is not honest, not trustworthy.  Just like Trump.”

As if something is either a lie or the truth with nothing in between.  As if there are no variations of lies and truths, no gradation of truth.  Yet these same people understand perfectly fine when a fact check was mostly true, or partly true or pants on fire.

They act as if there exists a politician who has never spun the truth, emphasizing part of it while ignoring the rest.  Such an art is a necessary part of being a politician and always has been.  To damn Hillary for it but excusing Trump, to damn Hillary saying that her doing so makes her just as bad as Trump without checking how often and how badly – that is digital thinking at its finest.  And that is not good.

As if Hillary’s rating from different fact checking organizations showing she has been the most truthful presidential candidate either Republican or Democrat during this campaign, and one of the more truthful politicians overall does not matter.  She has lied, she has spun the truth, and therefor is like Trump.

As if the mere fact of her doing so makes it unnecessary to look and compare her record with that of Trump’s many problems with truth and reality.

Digital thinking at its finest.  Again so very not a good thing.

Digital thinking leads to mistakes and errors in judgment.  In believing things that are not true.  In dismissing true things as untrue.  Life is too complex for digital thinking to be anything other than an easy road to error.

Were we to follow the way of the digital we would be creationists, we would deny global warming and go full speed ahead on mining and burning coal and to hell with renewable energy.

And it may give us a Trump presidency if we are not careful.

Obviously, this is aimed primarily at Bernie supporters who say that Hillary is as bad as Trump and they are not going to vote for either. And this is where another aspect of digital thinking comes in – wanting it all at once, I can’t get all I want at once so I am not going to do anything at all.

However, progress rarely happens all at once.  It is incremental and gradual.  It has compromises and half measures.  Until such a time as enough changes have accumulated that sudden progress can be made.  Progress is rarely digital.  It is analogue.

No, Hillary cannot give you all you want, but she can take some steps down the path you want.  She has done so in the past.  Her policies for the future contain much of what you want, and the seeds for more to eventually flourish.  She will not give you all you want, no one could given our current political realities.  However, she can give some.

Trump however will  not even take a step down that path he will destroy the path.  He will uproot any seeds for future change that might be planted.  And this is something Bernie Sanders recognizes and why he is supporting Hillary.

I hope that enough of his followers give up their digital views and do the same.

 

 

By the way, as far as I know I am the originator of this term.  If it turns out that I am not, that someone has already used this term in this way, then don’t tell me.  There are times my ego needs a little harmless stroking.