Protect Your Voting Rights!

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Americans today have an issue with maintaining their right to have free and fair elections. There are issues about voter suppression; specifically, the defunding of the postal service and voting by mail. There is also evidence that Russia is, once again, trying to manipulate our 2020 Presidential election.

In the 2016 Presidential elections, it is known that Vladimir Putin of Russia and his intelligence agency tried to manipulate the election and succeeded, at least to some extent. The Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Marco Rubio (R-FL), knows that Putin is trying to do it again in the 2020 Presidential election. Putin is, and always has been, in favor of bringing down American democracy.

Russian interference is affecting your voting rights.

Several states have had 100% voting by mail for a number of years. Those states are Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. There has been less than 1/2% fraud. Despite that, Trump is against the vote by mail option, even though many people prefer to vote by mail this year due to the spread of COVID19. In the face of the facts that there has been virtually no fraud in the elections of those five states, he insists there is fraud. Then recently, he allowed the state of Florida to vote by mail. But no other state! Why, if he believes, fraud is likely? Trump is trying to suppress the vote because he knows that fewer voters are always better for Republican’s running for office than more voters.

Voter suppression through the vote by mail option is affecting your voting rights.

The U.S. Postal Service has been operating on a shoestring. Trump is trying to defund the postal service by installing one of his cronies as Postmaster General. The new Postmaster General fired the top personnel and any overtime work has stopped. Postal workers have been encouraged to leave mail undelivered and work shorter hours. Trump’s goal is to make sure that the Postal Service can’t handle the load of mail-in ballots which is another voter suppression tactic.

Voter suppression by defunding the United States Postal Service is affecting your voting rights.

Trump does nothing to stop Putin’s antics regarding our votes. He is actively trying to suppress our votes by defunding the Postal Service and trying to stop vote by mail.

Is this a man who should be President of the United States? Americans need to take back their right to vote.

Trump Cancels Social Security and Medicare Tax

On Saturday, August 8, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress could not come to an agreement on what kind of stimulus package to provide to the American people in the wake of COVID19. Due to their wavering, Trump stepped in, as always, seeing an opportunity to, once again, try to buy votes from the American people. He issued four executive orders, which are not yet law although he tries to tell us that they are. I want to focus on one of the four executive orders that should be important to all of us.

Trump cancelled the payroll tax until the end of the year. Supposedly, that is to help working people by giving them a bit more take-home pay. My question to my readers is this. Does this really help you? Particularly in the long-run when you retire? The answer to that, in my opinion, is a resounding no.

You see, the payroll tax is a shortcut way of saying “what you pay in for your share of Social Security and Medicare.” If the payroll tax is cancelled, no one is paying into the Social Security Trust Fund. They are not paying into Medicare. If working people are not paying in, the Trust Fund is not growing, waiting for you when you retire. This is Trump’s first shot at getting rid of Social Security and Medicare, which he and his Republican buddies have always wanted to do. A sneaky way to do it, isn’t it? Especially since the average person may not know what the term “payroll tax” really stands for.

You may say, “Oh, but Social Security will not be there for us when we retire anyway.” Do you know that for certain? No, you don’t. Do you want your parents and grandparents to lose what may be their only, or one of their only, sources of income when they retire or if they are already retired?

Medicare will pay 80% of your medical expenses at retirement. Your grandparents or parents may be on Medicare now if they are over 65 years of age. A program that pays 80% of medical expenses is a valuable program for you in the future and for them now. Trump is threatening the security of what could be the only health insurance you might have and that’s Medicare.

Here’s the kicker. Trump says that, if he is re-elected, he is going to cancel the payroll tax permanently. That will definitely mean the end of Social Security and Medicare. Think about that when you cast your vote in the November Presidential election.

Different (or the same) opinions welcome!

Brett Kavanaugh: Men – It’s Not About You

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as the newest Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States this weekend. After Dr. Christine Ford’s testimony and Judge Kavanaugh’s follow-up testimony, I’m disgusted for many reasons. One of the reasons is that men seem to be making this issue all about them. It’s not. It’s about the victimization of women since the beginning of time.

Don’t you think we know that there are good men in the world? In fact, most men are good men. Someone, however, is attacking one out of every three women, aren’t they? But that is not the issue and if you think it is, you don’t understand the problem at all. First, the issue is that the justices on the High Court should have spotless reputations. We already had Clarence Thomas on the court who was accused of being a sexual predator by Anita Hill during his confirmation. We don’t know if he is/was or not. Now we have Brett Kavanaugh and regardless of what you may say, there is no way, now, that we will ever know if he is a sexual predator. Allow me to explain.

The explanation involves the second issue. A woman simply would not put herself through what Dr. Ford went through if there was not something to her story. She did not tell her story at 15 years of age because she was frightened. Frightened of her parents, her school, her attacker, and so many more things. She tried to put it behind her and move on. She couldn’t and went into therapy. Then, Kavanaugh was nominated for a position on the Supreme Court.

An investigation ensued or so President Trump told us. Trump not only did a disservice to Dr. Ford. He also did a disservice to Justice Kavanaugh because now, because of a sham of an investigation, we will never know if Kavanaugh is guilty or innocent or if Ford was telling the truth. This wasn’t a trial so the rules of innocent until proven guilty do not apply. A large percentage of the population will always wonder about Kavanaugh just like we wonder about Clarence Thomas. Trump could have allowed the FBI to either clear Kavanaugh’s reputation or prove that Ford was correct.

Don’t we have to wonder why he didn’t?

Donald Trump, Immigration: Next?

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By now, we all know about the issues with Trump’s immigration policy at our southern border such as family separation, detaining children in camps, and, in general, causing an uproar across America. Right on the heels of that fiasco, we learn that Trump is asking the U.S. Army to release any soldier who is serving in the Army with the promise of citizenship at the end of his or her service. This has released some excellent soldiers from our Army who will now be deported.

One has to ask, “What’s next?” or maybe “Who’s next?”

Has Donald Trump forgotten, or did he ever know, that the United States of America is a nation of immigrants? I am only third generation in America. Trump, himself, is only second generation. I had to wonder exactly what Trump is trying to accomplish after I heard him ask, “Why can’t we get more immigrants from Norway?” I suppose he meant as opposed to south of our southern border. That statement reeked of racism and bigotry. Clearly, he meant more white immigrants instead of brown immigrants.

We should (and so should Trump) remember the lessons of history. Hitler was striving for his Aryan race. A race of what he called white, superior beings. His brand of politics was called Fascism. As Trump wishes for more white immigrants and fewer immigrants from countries south of the border and from Muslim countries, all who have browner skin, I wonder what he’s trying to achieve. It can’t be that he wants to conserve resources or he would not be wishing for any immigrants at all. Could he be trying to “whiten up” America?

What should we expect next? Should we expect that all people with brown skin might have their citizenship revoked and be sent back to the countries of their ancestors? Or that all African-Americans or Asian-Americans might suffer the same fate? Perhaps he’ll just take a short-cut, and since our Congress is no longer serving as a system of checks and balances and because he is going to pack the Supreme Court to his liking, he’ll just build gas chambers as Hitler did.

I know you think I’m exaggerating. I would imagine the German people didn’t expect millions of Jews to be killed either. At least, not at first.

Maybe Trump will decide that no one is worthy of living in America but his “base.” At least that’s what I hear from some members of his base. Some of them say there will be a revolution and, for example, there will be no Democrats left. I wonder where they got that from? Trump takes the Democratic Party’s name in vain, and badly, at every Trump rally. No wonder he has riled up “his people” into thinking such a thing. Now his “base” wonders why the Democrats are filled with hatred and fear. Talk to some of the members of his base or go to a Trump rally and you will figure out why.

It could be that Trump will decide no one should live in America but “true Americans.” Of course, he thinks that is his base or he tries to make us think those are his thoughts. If he goes that far, the jokes on him. America is a nation of immigrants. The only “true Americans” have red skin. The Native Americans. #NotMyPresident

 

Recommended Reading: “Fascism: A Warning” by Madeleine Albright

Relief: The Politics in the U.S.

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Today, Elizabeth’s Creativity Challenge asks the question, among others, about what would cause relief for the current distress in our fellow citizens given the current situation in the world. To provide my take on that question, I’m going to narrow the question to the United States.

The American Psychological Association actually coined a term for the stress many of us felt during and after the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election — election stress disorder. The APA cited people who were terribly distressed after each debate and then more than distressed after the election and who are having trouble recovering from that. First, a disclaimer. I personally believe we have reason to be distressed. But, we can’t have an entire country walking around unable to function for however long Donald Trump is in office. We have to be productive for ourselves and our country. That said, here is the APA’s prescription for at least some relief.

None of us in the U.S. have ever witnessed anything like the Republican primary debates nor the debates between President-elect Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. My highest stress moment (and there were a lot of them) was watching Trump stalk around on the stage (Debate 2) right behind Clinton but in view of the camera looking very predatory. Perhaps it didn’t affect men as much as women. It affected me a lot. I knew then that he should not be President. There were various high stress moments for all of us who were not Trump supporters.

What do we do for election stress disorder relief? First, the APA asks us to consider what actually happens in our brains to cause such stress. The primitive parts of our brain are associated with safety, security, and other factors cave men and women had to worry about. Those are the parts of the brain that came to life when I saw Trump stalking Clinton on stage, obviously to intimidate her. Other things might have caused  your primitives to spring into action.

Other parts of the brain react with empathy, compassion, and more adult emotions than the primitive emotions. Some of us have been able to access these emotions regarding the political situation in the U.S., some haven’t. The APA found that a full 52% of the U.S. population is suffering from election stress disorder, including both men and women.

What do we do to find some relief? The same things we do to find relief for anything that stresses us. Turn off cable news! Now! You can’t do anything at all about what’s happening. Practice relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga, for example. Get some exercise. Aerobics helps me more than anything because it burns off that stress. Go about your work and your life. Read. Preferably fiction. Something that will take your mind to another place and time. See your friends and don’t let politics get in your way. Who cares if they are Trump supporters? They are still your friends. Don’t talk politics with them.

These things are all we can do in the short run. There is one more thing. Run for political office. There aren’t enough young politicians out there and I’ve noticed a real scarcity of young politicians, particularly Democrats. If you don’t run, you can’t make a difference. If we saw young, dedicated politicians ready to run for office, it would be a relief for all of us. #amblogging #amwriting #writing #creativitychallenge #politics

 

*American Psychological Association, Psychology Today, Election Stress Disorder

Post in response to Creativity Challenge #38

 

 

#SoCS – Dec 24/16

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Good morning to everyone! I only have one thing of importance on my mind today. I want to say Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everyone out there celebrating the holidays. In the United States, it has been such a disturbing year from a political standpoint. Since starting to blog on WordPress this year, I’ve met so many wonderful people of all political and religious persuasions. When we interact, their politics or religion never occurs to me.

I hope that, in 2017, we can all come together – Christians, Jews, Muslims – and every other religion and every political persuasion – and show our governments who seem to be trying to tear us apart, that WE are, indeed, the world. That despite the differences in how we worship or who we elect to lead us, WE are the world. The people and not the small groups of governmental officials. Those officials don’t represent us all and, in some cases, represent very few of us.

When we interact one on one, politics and religion don’t matter. We’re all just people, trying to survive, take care of our families, somehow make our way toward self-actualization. We can get along with our neighbors who may worship differently or have a different view of political governing, but WE, the people, are the world. WE are important, not the little groups at the top who try to cook up something between us. No matter what country we live in.

I’ve met a lot of people this year from all around the world. I want my blogger friends on WordPress to know that knowing them and reading their work has enriched my life. I have new friends on Facebook because of my writing who are also writers and I feel the same about you. I’ve come to like Twitter as there are people there who will help a budding writer and I’ve certainly made new friends there and I want to thank them. It hasn’t mattered one bit about their politics or religion and they haven’t let it matter about mine. I respect all these people immensely. I want to thank all of you for your friendship and help this year.

My old friends. What can I say? The year has been hard for me and to those of you who have shared those hard times with me, I will never be able to repay you and you have my gratitude. My old friends are more than special to me and I hope you will always be in my life.

To all of you, have a blessed holiday. WE are the people and WE are the world. Don’t let anyone take that away from US. #religion #politics #Christmas #Hanukkah #amwriting #amblogging #writing #WordPress

Post in response to Stream of Consciousness Dec 24/16

Thanks, Linda!

Flint Michigan Water Crisis: Don’t Forget About Flint

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A lot of press was given to the Native American Standing Rock Pipeline Resistance, which has now been resolved. Some press has been given to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, but we don’t seem to know quite as much about it. The Standing Rock protest was being held to try to protect their water supply. The Flint, Michigan water supply has already been severely contaminated.

The Flint, Michigan water supply was contaminated beginning in April, 2014. Flint switched its water supply from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. The Flint River was treated improperly and the pipes in it leached lead into the river which made its way into the drinking water. Between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed to lead in their water. An outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease in the area is most likely the result of the contamination of the water supply. Ten deaths resulted.

By June of 2015, Virginia Tech tested Flint’s water and found that it had almost three times the amount of lead in it that water had that the Environmental Protection Agency classified as hazardous waste. Children were getting sick with rashes and mysterious illnesses. Lead has a particularly bad effect on the nervous system.

The President declared a state of emergency in Flint in January 2016. Criminal charges have been filed against some officials who were involved this situation. Some were involved in what amounted to a cover-up.

At this time, the Flint water supplied has been switched back to the Detroit supply though it takes a long time for the lines to be clear of lead.

Not enough attention has been paid to Flint and the children of Flint. What is going to be done about those 6,000-12,000 children who have been exposed to very high levels of  lead? Since lead is a neurotoxin, it causes behaviorial delays, lowered IQ, and developmental problems. These issues can’t be reversed. The proper diet can decrease the absorption of lead so parents are being given information regarding mitigating the circumstances somewhat. Of course, switching water supplies back to the old one is also necessary and has already happened.

Unfortunately, the crisis in Flint is still ongoing and has not had the positive ending that the Standing Rock crisis was able to accomplish.#amwriting #amblogging #writing #Flint

 

Protecting Ourselves in Today’s Uncertain World

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In writing posts for Elizabeth’s Creativity Challenges (number 29), I’ve focused mostly on factual information. When you are writing about the word “protect,” as I am for this post, I would normally focus on the factual information on what we as a nation could do to protect ourselves from the uncertainly and distress in the world. I could also focus on what we as individuals could focus on to protect ourselves. I find myself in a different place as a writer than I’ve ever been and I think, at least according to some of us, we find ourselves in a different place as a nation.

I have to pose a question. How do we protect ourselves from our ultimate protector? Not just the protector of the United States but the protector and the most powerful man in the free world? No one more than me hopes that myself and my contemporaries turn out to be wrong about President-elect Donald Trump. I hope that he is our protector and our leader as he is going to swear to be on January 20, 2017.

I don’t believe we are wrong. At best, I don’t believe Mr. Trump knows what he is getting into. I don’t believe he has enough political or diplomatic knowledge of the workings of the world to understand what it means to be President of the United States. He sees it as a power grab. A power grab from “the other side” however he defines the other side. Since he is now a Republican, I assume he defines the other side as Democrats. He, himself, was a registered Democrat not long ago. Men who become leaders because they seek power and without the understanding of the ramifications of that power are dangerous when they command armies.

At worst, Mr. Trump does know what he is getting into and is doing things like waging Twitter wars, appointing inappropriate people to his Cabinet that have conflicts of interest, focusing on issues that are irrelevant like his feud with the New York Times, because he considers these things more important than, for example, taking his foreign policy briefings every day. This begs the question of why the President-elect does not want to know what’s going on in the world? Is he really that arrogant? Or is there a darker reason?

Another issue. Mr. Trump alienates the media on purpose. Why? He doesn’t want to be held accountable by the media. The media is an unofficial source of checks and balances. Perhaps more or less corrupt than our three branches of government. Even though we are skeptical of Congress, there are some good people there that are honest and who would try to help.

Is the protection between us, as citizens of the U.S. or the free world, suddenly just gone? What a horrifying thought and there is nothing we can do as individuals to protect ourselves on a global scale from that.

Can we protect ourselves on a personal level? That is a good question. We don’t know how Donald Trump is going to govern yet and we won’t know for sure until after January 20, 2017. We can’t plan for what we don’t know. What we can do is protect our state of mind. We can try to stay positive at least about ourselves. We can’t spend 24/7 thinking about the state of the world or we will be useless and unable to help ourselves or anyone else. We have to get on with life. Work, socialize with like-minded people, see friends and family. Don’t spend too much time living inside your own head. Instead of just getting your news from sound bites on cable news, buy a newspaper. Read that newspaper. Form your own opinions. Keep yourself physically healthy. You will feel better if you eat the right food. Drink water. Get exercise to relieve stress.

My opinion? We may need our strength. Individually and collectively. Just as important. We don’t know yet. #amwriting #amblogging #writing

 

The Challenge here is to use your creative talent to bring light into the current distress in the world around you, in whatever form that talent takes. The word today is “protect.”

Threat – Trump and the Russian Connection

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The Challenge here is to use your creative talent to bring light into the current distress in the world around you, in whatever form that talent takes. Please remember that we are reaching out to a world that is facing upheaval and possibly a great number of changes. Let us reach out to that world and bring it the lessons we have learned by becoming artists and writers. “The word for this challenge is Threat.”

As both a writer and a U.S. citizen, the word “threat” has been in my vocabulary lately. I think many Americans have had that word in mind in recent weeks and even months when we think of the political situation in our country. The current administration has found out that Russia hacked the 2016 Presidential Election communications which may have affected the results of the election. Even if it did not affect the results of the election, it is alarming that Russia could have such easy access to computer records in our country.

The question is how do we know this is true and how is it a threat to the U.S.? That Russia did, indeed, hack into the computer records of those who had access to private election records. That Russia is a threat to the security of the U.S.

U.S. intelligence agencies were able to get evidence that Russian agencies tried to hack into the White House and the State Department. They also tried to hack into campaign  officials for the Clinton campaign. They did this by sending out thousands of phishing emails and hoping someone clicked on them. John Podesta, campaign manager for Hilary Clinton, did. They targeted Clinton because they thought if Trump won the election, he was more likely to lift sanctions against Russia.

What is President-Elect Donald Trump’s connection to Russia? Trump has sold many high-end condos in New York and Florida. Russians seem to like Trump’s condos. He and his children have also traveled to Moscow to discuss building condos and other business dealings in Moscow. Nothing much came of that. Trump did make many powerful friends in Russia, including the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, since he has been not only interested in Russia but very complimentary of the country.

How is this a threat to the U.S.? First, U.S. President’s, according to the Constitution, are not supposed to profit from their relationships with other countries. There is a definite conflict of interest here. Second, if you factor in Rex Tillerson’s appointment to the position of Secretary of State, it appears that a foreign country has captured a number of U.S. interests given that country’s relationship with the man soon to be our President and with the man  soon to be our Secretary of State. Rex Tillerson is a former Chairman of Exxon/Mobil and possesses much insider information about our oil and gas industry.

We must understand why this is so serious. Russia is another superpower like the United States. They do not have the same value system as the U.S. It is an authoritarian society while ours is a republic. World War II ended in the 1940s. It is now 2016. Generations of Russia’s have lived under Communist rule . They do not understand a market economy or a republic. Putin is a former KGB (Secret Police) officer.

The entire explanation for the animosity between Russia and the U.S.deserves its own blog post. But, briefly, after World War II, a Cold War began between the two superpowers. There were no diplomatic relations. There was constant fear, on both sides, that someone would push the red button. But, the Cold War eased in 1989 and gradually diplomatic and trade relationships between the two countries were established. There is, and has never been, trust between the governments and no understanding between the people.

If it is true that Russia has American secrets and did, indeed, try to throw the American election to Donald Trump, it is alarming and a threat to our country. Vladimir Putin does not wish us well. He wishes Russia well. Chances are, he considers those concepts mutually exclusive. If Donald Trump is either ignorant of this or complicit, that, in itself, is a threat.

 

#amblogging #amwriting #writing #Russia #politics

*This post is in response to Creativity Challenge 26

 

 

 

Tough Questions: The Other Side

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This week’s Discover Challenge is to consider tough questions that we’ve been asked. I can think of a tough question I was asked after the U.S. Presidential Election that is head and shoulders above other questions. I was in the local bookstore which is a gathering place for university folks. Knowing my background was in finance and economics, with a smattering of political science, some former students and a couple of university faculty cornered me. Here comes the tough question.

They asked me what I thought the appeal of President-Elect Trump is to the man on the street. Why is this a tough question? I happen to be a Democrat and I did not vote for Donald Trump. Their questions were a little more complex than that. Most of them were also Democrats and they wanted specifics. I was put in the position of having to look at the other side of the issues in order to explain the thinking of the people who elected him. Tough questions!

Expressing to them that what I was about to say was only my opinion and hoping (to myself) that I was going to convey correct information, we started to have a conversation. I was very tempted to grab my phone and call in reinforcements – my friends who had actually voted for Mr. Trump, but I didn’t.

I won’t go into all the specifics but I will give you the general conversation. I told them that all I could give them was my opinion. Yes, it was my opinion based on fact. My facts were based on those provided by both the media and what I had read and gleaned myself. Since I had not discovered every fact about why the country preferred to elect Donald Trump as President of the United States but had gotten some of the information from the media, I did not feel comfortable answering their questions. I further expressed that I felt my opinions and bias as a Democrat would color my explanation.

The group still wanted me to explain why I thought he was elected. I made a few comments. I was more comfortable answering their questions since I had already told them that I was only expressing my own opinion.

Separating opinion from fact is extremely important when answering tough questions. #amwriting #amblogging #writing #weeklydiscoverychallenge