This Planet Earth

IMG_0777

Watching the solar #eclipse today made me think about this planet Earth, our place in the universe, and how we, as some of the inhabitants of this planet, have affected it.

#Earth is but a tiny dot in a vast universe. Imagine how everything came together here to give us all the ingredients necessary for life. The right atmosphere to breathe, the water to drink, the soil in which to grow our food. Imagine how it is so unlikely that this could have happened. It makes me think that we cannot possibly be alone. Somewhere out there, there must be other life, although maybe not life like us.

What have we, as intelligent human beings, done to our precious atmosphere, water, and soil? We have polluted it beyond measure, almost to the point where it is not useful to us anymore. The Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970. If not for the EPA, I’m not quite sure where planet Earth would be at this point in time. Would it be able to sustain our life? I think it’s doubtful. But it was created and it began to study the concept of pollution.

The EPA determined that the smoke pouring from steel mills and other manufacturing companies was polluting the air. They had to install scrubbers. Sure, it cut into their profits in the short-term. In the long run, it helped save our atmosphere, keep us healthy, and the share price of these corporations did not suffer in the long run. The same is true of the water in which manufacturers and coal companies poured sludge. This is only one of hundreds of examples of how the EPA has protected our environment since 1970. Protecting our environment is protecting us, our health, and our long-term survival on this planet.

There is one irrefutable truth. The EPA doesn’t know what to protect us from without scientific research. That is the backbone of the organization. Unfortunately, our current President does not understand this or does not care. He has slashed scientific research and EPA programs in his 2018 budget by 31%, a steeper cut than for any other governmental organization. Around 3,200 jobs will be lost, just from the EPA, many of them highly trained and valuable scientists. Is this really wise?

I could list the other cuts the President is making to EPA programs that will impact our ability to live on this planet. The Paris Climate Agreement which addresses rising seas levels. An order to expand off-shore drilling. Then, we have such things as dropping the agreement to protect sea turtles and whales from fishing nets. Do we want to live on a planet when the caretakers don’t care about such things?

We have another solar #eclipse in 2024. Unless the EPA is given its money back to protect us from air pollution, we may not be able to see that one for the pollution in the air. It’s good we all enjoyed the 2017 #eclipse.

Advertisements

Congress Does Not Represent the People of the United States

IMG_0729

The U.S. Congress, the legislative branch of the government, has become corrupted. This is the branch, of the three branches of government, set down by the Founders, that is supposed to represent the people of the United States. Do you think that we are fairly represented by the U.S. Congress? I am here to contend that we are not.

We only have to look as far as the current Senate Health Care Bill and the debate surrounding that bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is the primary senator pushing the bill. He is doing so became he is being pushed by the President, but that is not the only reason. Since 1989 and to date, five of the top industries contributing to McConnell are: Health Professionals, Insurance, Hospitals and Nursing Homes, Pharmaceuticals and Health Products, and Health Services and HMOs. Can McConnell truly be unbiased?

Mitch McConnell represents the state of Kentucky as a senator. He is supposed to represent the people of that state. Kentucky is a poor state. A high percentage of the population, particularly in the Appalachian region of the state, use the Medicaid program. For example, in Kentucky, children represent 19 percent of all Medicaid spending but 43 percent of its enrollees. The Senate Heath Care Bill, pushed by Senator McConnell, would take away these benefits for many or most of these children who are not even the driving force of the Medicaid expenditures.

I ask you. Is Mitch McConnell representing his Kentucky constituency? Perhaps he is, instead, representing those five health care industries that contribute to his campaign funds? He is lobbying to take away the Medicaid benefits from his constituency.

The McConnell example is only one example of a senator who is not serving his constituency. Congress is supposed to serve as the voice of the people and the states to the federal government. Do you really think it is currently, or has in the recent past, been fulfilling that function?

Congress is also supposed to serve as an oversight body on the Executive Branch of government; in other words, the President of the United States. That, to me, is laughable at this point in time. Yes, there are committees in place to investigate the dealings of the Trump administration and I fervently hope they are doing their jobs. I count on the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, to oversee those committees at this point in time. The Senators and the Representatives are too worried about losing their own jobs to really serve as oversight on the President.

Congress now, instead of representing the people, represents money. The money they can make from the lobbyists of corporations like health care corporations if they follow their agendas. There is only one way to solve this problem. Term limits. Limit the terms of the Senators and Representatives so they don’t have time to become millionaires through lobbyists and on the backs of their constituencies, the taxpayers. Only then will we have something approaching a representative Congress again.

#SoCS – 6/10/2017 – US Political System

img_0596

I am tired of our political system in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not tired of our democracy. I’m not even tired of capitalism. I support both. I am tired of politicians refusing to admit their real positions on issues and what they have really done. I am tired of lies and deceit in politics that are destroying the U.S. political system.

Although I am a news and information junkie, I’ve started tuning out the news as I listen while I work each day. We have no idea what the truth really is. We can’t even believe politicians as they testify under oath because they have no respect for the oath.

There are two things, and two things only, that give me hope. As I’ve listened to the hearings, I have heard just a few young politicians question witnesses. Not the rich, older, white men we are so accustomed to but some new names and faces. New and young politicians from both sides of the aisle. They have seemed sensible and not yet jaded. Perhaps they are our hope for the future?

My second source of hope is the American people. My own opinion is that we got it wrong during the 2016 election. I think I am backed up by the polls since the President only has an approval rate of around 36%. That leaves a huge percentage of the American people dissatisfied. Perhaps in 2020 one of the fresh young faces will run for office. Even if they don’t agree with my point of view, they will be steeped in the ways of government. Perhaps we can reclaim our position in the world and in NATO. Perhaps the checks and balances of our political system, wisely put in place by our forefathers, will work during the next three and a half years and too much damage will not be done. Maybe one of those fresh young faces can re-establish some sense of political sanity and dignity to the U.S. political system and get Russia out of our affairs forever.

Trump: What Are We Waiting On?

img_0367

Donald Trump. At this point, I cannot bring myself to say President Donald Trump. Does a President of the United States, the leader of the free world, give away classified secrets to our adversary, the Russians, because he needs to brag to make himself feel good? That’s what happened a few days ago when he met, in private, with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador. It makes the job of any of our enemies so much easier. Our President has put us at risk. What does this mean for our intelligence community?

The intelligence community keeps us alive. Donald Trump has just put that in jeopardy. Do you think that the intelligence community is going to keep sharing information with the U.S.? The answer is no. They are not. We are now in more jeoprady than before our President opened his big mouth because of his bigger inferiority complex. To make this all worse, Donald Trump basically admitted what he did in a tweet.

This, in my opinion, is the worst thing Trump has done. There are other things.

Trump fired the Director of the FBI, James Comey. Comey was leading the investigation into the Russian connection to Trump’s campaign. Trump fired the man who was investigating him. Shades of Richard Nixon and Archibald Cox. Trump could be impeached just for firing the Director of the FBI. Then, he threatens the Director with the existence of tapes if Comey talks about their conversations. The President of the United States threatening someone like a common thug?

Then there is the evidence that Trump is using the Presidency for profit. When the President of China visited, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, was seated beside him. She ended up with Chinese trademarks for her clothing line.

I have mentioned just a handful of inappropriate actions Trump has taken since his inauguration. Perhaps passing classified information to the Russians is the most dangerous and certainly the worst, but not the only egregious action he has taken.

My question is what is Congress waiting on? This man needs to be removed from office. It may already be too late now that he has passed classified secrets to the Russians. He has now put us all in danger. It is time to act. Impeachment is not enough. We are in uncharted territory. In my opinion, he is mentally incompetent and needs to be physically escorted from the White House. I don’t know who would take his place. Mike Pence, Vice-President, does not seem to be the right choice as he has been complicit with many of Trump’s actions.

What are we waiting on? Destruction of our democracy and our country, not to mention danger and our way of life?

I’m Sorry, Coal Miners, Trump’s Promises to you are Empty

img_0549

Donald Trump is right to want to put our nation’s coal miners back to work. He is not right to promise to put them back to work in a declining industry and make promises to them he cannot keep.

Trump recently signed an Executive Order relating to coal mining that did one thing and one thing only. It rolled back a regulation that stopped mining companies from dumping water from mining operations into streams, a regulation put into place during the Obama era. Rolling back this regulation will not give the majority of coal miner’s their jobs back because regulations are not what has taken away the coal jobs.

So what did take away the coal miner’s jobs? Automation in the mines, for one thing. Competition from low-cost, plentiful natural gas. Mergers and acquisitions within the coal industry that were unwise and didn’t work. This one mining regulation had almost nothing to do with destroying the jobs within the mining sector. Trump’s latest executive order is not going to help you very much for very long. If at all.

Replacement

One of the promises that President Donald Trump made during his campaign was to address the failing infrastructure in the U.S. That is a campaign promise that everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, can get behind. His current travel ban on certain groups from certain countries is now a new policy that is not amenable to a high percentage of the population of the U.S., even some of his own supporters.

My suggestion is that he practice a replacement strategy and focus on policies that can be supported by a majority of the American people such as the infrastructure policy. Mr. Trump has very low initial ratings as a President. Focusing on the infrastructure policy, as opposed to this travel ban on groups from other countries, would endear him to the American public. Everyone knows that the infrastructure must be addressed.

Even though Mr. Trump is signing executive orders on issue after issue, there are many of them that Congress has to address before they can before law. Mr. Trump just seems to be flailing around, not listening to his advisers, and perhaps not telling the truth to the American people regarding the travel ban. It has been reported that Mr. Trump conferred with Rudy Guiliani concerning the “Muslim ban” before he put the travel ban in place. This does not start his Presidency out on a positive note. Instead, he has to deal with people demonstrating in almost every airport across the country.

Mr. Trump chose seven countries for his travel ban. Interestingly, he did not put three countries on the list that were involved in the 9/11 attacks and he has business interests in all three countries.

There are questions. Has Mr. Trump violated the Constitution with his travel ban and refusing to allow immigrants into the country? At the very least, this travel ban is unAmerican. The Statue of Liberty has the following quote carved on it:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

 

Can our Democracy Last?

image

John Adams, one of our founders feared that it could not when he said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” Of course, that was a long time ago and they were just in the process of building America, our great shining city on the hill.

We are not a true democracy but a representational democracy. If we were a true or pure democracy, all laws would be made by direct, popular vote. Some of our laws are made like this. Most are not with a good example being the electoral college.

Our founders actually seemed to prefer a republic to a democracy. They are identical in every aspect except one. In a democracy, power is held by the group. In a republic, power is held by every individual. Most think the United States is a mixture of the two forms of government.

The ancient Greeks, in the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, formed an amazing democracy for a time. Ancient Athens gave its citizens equal political rights regardless of descent, social standing, wealth, and other factors, though women could not be involved. The democracy devolved into an oligarchy after a defeat in war. An oligarchy is a government ruled by a small group of people, sometimes private citizens, who exert an inordinate influence on the government. Sound familiar? Athens did influence forms of government for two millennia.

Athens is just one example of a democracy devolving into a more tyrannical type of government. The Roman Empire was a republic upon which the U.S. government was partially based. It, too, ended due to a number of factors. The Roman Empire found itself in a severe financial crisis. The causes were years of war and overspending and high taxes along with inflation caused a widening gap between the rich and poor. The economy started to decline. The Roman Empire lasted much longer than the average of 200 years.

Other examples of the failure of democracies and republics exist. The characteristics of the demise all seem to be similar. Greed, power, money, and a concentration of power at the top lead to the fall of such forms of government. What about the United States of America? Is it too late for us to reverse the course of history?

What do you think?

#SoCS – Dec 24/16

img_0319

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!

Mistakes: Trump and the American People

img_0367

Creativity Challenge 25

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 Mistakes.”

One thing I have learned as a writer is that words have impact. They have impact on those who read them. Oftentimes, you don’t know what impact your words have had until much later, when one of your readers tells you what impression they had on them. I know I have often been surprised at what significance some story or article I have written has had on a reader; perhaps a story that was just meant to be light-hearted, but a story that touched a reader in some fundamental way.

Writers aren’t the only ones with a responsibility since their story or non-fiction article seems to have imprinted on one or more people. So do our politicians. This was particularly evident in the 2016 Presidential Election in the U.S. Did this election add to the distress in the world around us? Without a doubt. The reason it did is because it was filled with hateful rhetoric. By both candidates, but particularly by President-elect Trump. Not in my lifetime do I remember a candidate for the Presidency of the United States calling other candidates, in the primary, or the candidate running against him in the general election, humiliating names. It was childish, bullying, school-yard behavior but it apparently appealed to some of the baser instincts of some sectors of our population. Some of the American people, Trump supporters, actually chanted, “KILL HILLARY,” at the end of Trump’s political rallies. Whoever thought the American people were capable of that? Clearly, that was a mistake. A mistake just as horrible as if I had written a story with those words, but about another person who opposed what I was saying.

That is called “herd mentality.” I guarantee you that some people who were chanting that phrases were just following other around them. They really were not asking for Hillary Clinton to be killed. This incident, however, was an example of how riots start. How revolutions start. I could just have easily written a book that would give people ideas about their ability to riot or undergo a revolution.

Donald Trump made a mistake. He played on the fears of a sector of the American population. The people who attended his rallies had lost their jobs due to globalization and technological innovation and robotics. Their unions had not protected them. They couldn’t find another job without re-training to which many are resistant? Their unemployment benefits had run out and they had to work menial jobs to even keep a roof over their head. Trump has promised them that he will bring the jobs back to America. But here’s the secret. That will be incredibly hard to do. The old plants stand empty and will have to be completely refitted. Trade agreements with other countries that make our products will have to be violated or repealed. In order to bring back jobs, wages will have to be low due to the other high fixed costs. It will take far more than four years if it can be done at all. Trump made a mistake by promising something to get himself elected that he cannot possibly know if he can deliver.

If I made promises as a writer that I could not deliver and I was a writer working for an employer, do you know what would happen? I would be fired.

Perhaps the most shameful mistake that Donald Trump made regarding domestic policy, and te one closest to my heart, is the promise to the coal miners of Kentucky and West Virginia. He said he is going to bring back coal mining. Because of the desperation of the coal miners for work, they believed him. They could not see the con. That all he was doing was promising them the world in order to get their vote. He got their vote, but he isn’t going to bring back coal mining. He can’t put the coal back in the ground. A lot of the mines are closed because they are mined out.

What is really driving the loss of coal jobs? It is not the federal government. Coal production is decreasing because producing natural gas is a lower cost operation. Any coal miner also knows that decades of increased mechanization in the coal mines is also taking away many coal jobs. Mechanization and the use of natural gas is not just going to go away because Donald Trump was elected President. That would put ever-increasing numbers of coal companies in bankruptcy. The cost of wind and solar power, renewable sources of energy, is also falling. Of course, there are increasing environmental regulations. But does anyone want the environment polluted? Our air and water?

I have relatives, grandparents and cousins, who lived in coal country. We couldn’t drink the water there. It smelled and tasted like sulphur. My grandparents always kept bottled water. Does coal pollute or not? Try to argue that point to the contrary. That would be another mistake. For all of Donald Trump’s rhetoric about bringing back coal, he can’t do it unless he can find a way to produce clean coal. Many environmental scientists have worked on that problem for decades. They have not found a solution yet. If I wrote anything to the contrary, I would be making a mistake.

There are many other mistakes being made today regarding the current political situation in the U.S. But, that is a blog post for another day. #amwriting #amblogging #writing #creativitychallenge25 #DonaldTrump #2016PresidentialElection

*Post in response to Creativity Challenge 25

 

 

 

Tough Questions: The Other Side

img_0380

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