Thursday, August 16, 2018

Is America Really That Great?

 
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Yesterday Andrew Cuomo, Governor or New York, during a speech said that America “was never that great.This comment drew the ire and the condemnation of many American “patriots”, but was he actually right in a way? We have always been taught, growing up that “America is the greatest country in the world”. We never questioned that assertion and we never had a reason to question it. But how was that determination made and by whom? It’s like believing in God, as all religious people do. We are told He exists, but we have no proof. It’s just a matter of faith. If we don’t believe hat America is the greatest country in the world, we’re labeled as unpatriotic, ungrateful, or even treasonous. We often are told “ America. Love it or leave it”. But if we don’t believe that America is the greatest, does that mean we don’t love America?
As were were always told that America was the greatest country in the world, we were also being taught about life. In athletics we were told to always strive to do our best or to do better. In school we were always taught that we can do better. We learned the importance of corrective criticism . We were encouraged, and are still being encouraged, that we must not be complacent about anything in our lives. If that is true for the citizens of this country, shouldn’t it be true of our country?
I have traveled quite a great deal and lived in Malaysia for seven years and was always astounded by the ignorance of many Americans I spoke with concerning my foreign travel experiences. Some people actually thought that most of China had no electricity and Malaysia had no air conditioning! They were surprised to hear that Thailand and Malaysia had a thriving health tourism industry and that their healthcare systems are not only top rated, but also extremely inexpensive! I have even had people ask me if children in Asia go to school like American children! Many Americans still believe that China and India are economically very far behind that of the United States. I really do not understand how, in this interconnected world, with the Internet and 24/7 cable news and social media, so many Americans can be so ignorant! Is it because they don’t want to be educated about another country of the world or do they just don’t care? I believe that the majority of these people believe that America is the greatest, regardless of what anyone says.
So why is America so great? Let’s look at education. According to US News and World Report “Despite being home to some of the best universities in the world, the US is not considered to have one of the most educated populations. The U.S. ranks №18 in perceptions of an educated population, just above South Korea and behind Italy.” Every country in Europe and most in Asia offer completely free college tuition or substantially reduced tuition for their citizens, whereas in the United States, students graduate saddled by staggering amounts of student loan debt. Also in the US the quality of public education is dependent upon the wealth of a particular school district, with those from predominantly white, more affluent school districts faring much better than poorer non-white school districts. Children of more wealthy parents also have the luxury of sending their children to elite private schools.
Now we turn to healthcare.And we all know where we stand on this! According to Business Insider the United States does not even rank among the top 16 countries with the best healthcare. The Patient Factor has published a chart by The World Health Organization that ranks the United States number 37 out of 190 countries! Of the developed countries, the United States is the only country that does not offer its citizens free healthcare. According to Snopes , 643,000 Americans become bankrupt due to medical costs every year. In developing countries this is zero! Americans also pay much more money for prescription drugs than most other countries in the world. Because of this fact many Americans are “illegally importing drugs from other countries of the world” according to Drug Watch. This doesn’t make us so great.
Some of the saddest statistics which I see to be inexcusable are those statistics on infant mortality rate. Amazingly the United States scores much higher than comparable countries of the developing world. The Peter Kaiser Health System Tracker breaks down the ranking of the US as compared to other countries, as well as other demographics including minorities. Viewing some of these statistics is very depressing , but they also show that the US in improving slowly in some areas. We all know that the US has a high rate of drug abuse and we also have the highest prison rates of any company in the world, without referring to statistics. It’s a national embarrassment to lead the world in these two categories! We also have no reason to be proud of the number of school shootings, which have become almost common in this country. We cannot be proud of the declining attitudes in this country towards minorities and the treatment of minorities in our judicial system. We cannot even be proud of our President and Congress!
So why might we say that America is the greatest country of the world? America has the strongest and best equipped military in the world. America , for the time being is the richest country in the world with the world’s largest economy. China is close behind, but we’re still the biggest. America has some of the best universities in the world, including MIT, Harvard, Yale and Stanford, among others. Students from all over the world come here to attend these and numerous other fine institutions of higher learning. The same can be said for our world class hospitals, such as Massachusetts General Hospital, The Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson and many more fine healthcare facilities, which count patients from the world over, including numerous world leaders.
The United States leads the world in the number of entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, who have positively impacted world technology and society in general. Silicon Valley is the envy of the technology world, but is only one area of our country leading the world in technological innovation. The United States possesses an abundance of invaluable natural resources second to none in the world as well as having some of the world’s most scenic wonders, such as the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park. Unbeknownst to most Americans the United States leads the world in production of oil, even though we also are the world’s biggest oil importer.
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How America is great cannot be easily described with statistics or with words. America is great for what she stands for. America is great because she offers opportunities and hope for those who don’t have either. In America you can become who you want to be, regardless of economic status, religion or race and even disability. America is so diverse that no matter how different you may be you can find your niche here. America is one part of the world where you can experience the food and culture of every country in the world without leaving the country. You can hear every language of the world and have the opportunity to learn that language and culture from the sons and daughters of immigrants from those countries. You can live a lifestyle in America for which you would be jailed or even executed in some countries of the world. I believe it’s called freedom. Our Constitution makes America great because of all of the rights and freedoms it grants to all people in this country. America is more than a country . It is a feeling. A feeling of pride and a desire to help others, who are less fortunate, regardless of who or what they are. America is a willingness to give someone a chance that they thought they would never have. America is the Statue of Liberty and all she stands for. America is what we her citizens want her to be.
All of those shortcomings discussed above can be fixed if we try. But first we have to admit they exist. We should never be complacent in feeling or saying that America is the greatest country in the world. We all must not accept mediocrity for ourselves and our country. We must not accept the failings of our country as normal or irreparable. We can’t just say “America, right or wrong”. We have to help America be right and just. We must strive every day to make ourselves, our town, our country better. We must resist those in this country who wish to denigrate our system of government, our Constitution and our citizens. We must denounce extreme nationalism and white supremacy, while embracing diversity. To paraphrase the US Army, “America should be all she can be”. We should never lose sight of the future.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

What is the Purpose of Trump’s Rallies?

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It seems like I have always been interested in politics ever since I was a teenager and joined the thousands of people my age who were swept up in the energy of John F. Kennedy’s campaign for President. Watching his rallies and campaign speeches I first became aware of the need to help the poor, the disadvantaged and those of color, as well as all minorities. Throughout numerous political campaigns I reveled at speeches by Democrats and Republican alike promising to bring Americans together, to help the poor and homeless, the unemployed and the middle class. The only disparaging words were directed towards our enemies which at the time included Communism, Fascism, poverty, drugs and crime. After the the presidential election the rallies came to an end and the rhetoric turned to uniting Americans and putting forth policies and programs to serve the economic and social well being of the American people. Those who voted both for and against the elected president were treated equally, for the most part. The opposition party was mentioned in terms of probably not being able to serve the country as well as the party in power, but never vilified. Republicans and Democrats were actually friends, who just happened to disagree upon how best to create and maintain policies to best benefit the country. Whenever the president made a public appearance it was to tout the benefits of his party’s agenda. As thoughts turned to the re-election of the president, in the latter part of his term, the presidential assemblies turned into campaign rallies where the president boasted of his perceived accomplishments, often stretching the truth, but rarely blatantly lying.
How things have changed! The presidential election of 2016 was probably the most vicious and disgusting campaign I have ever witnessed, thanks to Donald Trump. He didn’t rail against the old enemies, Communism, poverty etc. He railed against his own invented personal enemies! The Press, immigrants, Muslims, women, the educated and especially Barack Obama were all the “Enemy”! He constantly spewed forth a tirade of hateful insults directed at his opponent Hillary Clinton and Obama along with derogatory denunciations of the press, except for Fox News, which eventually became the propaganda arm of his campaign and later his administration. He attacked and belittled his political opponents throughout his entire campaign to win the Republican nomination. For the first time in my memory I heard a candidate for the esteemed office of the President of the United States refer to his opponents with names any third grader would use to bully his classmates. Names such as Lying Ted, Crooked Hillary and Little Marco, which belong on an elementary school playground, came into common usage by this presidential candidate. At his lowest point he even mocked a physically handicapped reporter and derided the mother of a Gold Star Mother, solely because she was a Muslim! He has also attacked women and mocked them because of their physical appearance.
As a result of his campaign rallies our fellow Americans and immigrants of Mexican descent became rapists, drug dealers and criminals. Our Muslim neighbors all became terrorists. He attacked John McCain, one of America’s most beloved war heroes because he was captured by the Vietcong. This was from a 5 time draft dodger, don’t forget! A complete record of Trump’s attacks during his campaign can be seen on Newsday.
Now that Trump is president his hateful and divisive rhetoric has not diminished, on the contrary it has intensified. He has not attempted to unify the country, but to further divide it along racial, political and religious lines. He has doubled down on the press and has even incited violence against them, except for Fox News that is. Five people were killed in a newspaper office in Maryland and Trump hesitated to mention or condemn the killings until a national outrage forced him begrudgingly to address the situation. After the Charlottesville, Va. white nationalist rally, where a counter-protester was intentionally run over and killed by a white nationalist and 13 other people were injured in the violent protests, Trump refused to condemn the violence, instead he offered tacit support for Neo-Nazis. Addressing his supporters he has praised Vladimir Putin as a strong leader as well as supporting Philippine dictator Duterte. By meeting with North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un he has legitimized the tyrant and he even praised him as being much loved by his countrymen during some his rallies.
As the investigation into the Trump-Russia collusion heats up and some of Trump’s closest campaign advisors have either been indicted or pled guilty and the investigation is getting closer to Trump and his family, Trump is moving closer to his base of supporters. He knows that his base will support him no matter what. He once said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters” and he truly believes it. Whenever things get hot with Mueller, Trump turns to rallies with his cult like base. He knows he can say anything he wants to his supporters, even racially charged speeches in which he can denigrate people of color, especially Black athletes, journalists and entertainers. He ridicules and blames immigrants for the imagined sufferings of his supporters and attacks our allies in order to fire up his supporters. He promises to bring back jobs that will never return. He promises to return their country to a time basically when white people were in charge and women and Black people knew their places. His continued attack on the press has resulted in TV networks having to provide their journalists with security to prevent possible physical attacks, as Trump gleefully incites his supporters to chant vile hateful chants directed at the press. Despite his attacks on the media the press continues to cover his rallies,even though they produce no news, only pure unadulterated hate. There is no reason to cover these rallies other than to aid Trump in the dissemination of racist propaganda. He does not promise his base a better life, instead he seeks their help in destroying his enemies, anyone who disagrees with him, criticizes him or stands in the way of his taking authoritarian control of the country.
Now to the purpose of Trump’s rallies. When he is among his racist and bigoted followers Trump feels safe engulfed in their admiration of the man who makes their expressions of hate not only possible but normal. For years these people have been hiding in the shadows and now they can come to the forefront. Trump knows this and he is using their fervor to hold onto his position of power and to help him exact his revenge on Obama. He is using the same tactics as his idols, Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, Kim Jong-un and the most notorious madman in history, Adolf Hitler. One may say that it is not fair comparing Trump to Hitler, but it cannot be denied that Trump is using his rallies in the same way Hitler fired up his supporters. Hitler’s enemies, as well as Trump’s enemies are the press. Hitler demonized Jews, the educated elite and minorities. Trump has replaced the hatred of Jews with his hatred of Muslims and Mexicans. His rallies offer no hope for a better life for anyone, but Trump himself and his family. If we Americans don’t wake up and see the similarities between Trump and any authoritarian regime, we will find ourselves living under that regime.

Friday, August 3, 2018

He's One Sick Little Man




In 2011 President Obama made fun of Donald Trump at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, along with other politicians. He poked fun at Trump’s birth certificate conspiracy, the Celebrity Apprentice and Trump’s presidential ambitions. Unlike hundreds of normal politicians who have been roasted before him Trump was infuriated and vowed revenge. This moment was surely the moment Trump decided to run for president in 2016. So with considerable help from Russia and our country’s Nazis, white supremacists and heretofore hidden racists and bigots, Trump was elected President, although he lost the popular vote by a considerable margin. So began America’s nightmare.
Trump immediately started a campaign to obliterate Barack Obama from the history of the United States. Every since he came to office Trump has targeted our healthcare, only because Obama gave it to us and the Affordable Healthcare Act is commonly known as Obamacare. He promised to destroy Obamacare and replace it with and even better and cheaper plan, something he has failed to do. Even though Republicans control the House of Representatives they have so far failed to completely destroy Obamacare, but they have managed to chisel away some of the provisions of the program which have caused premiums to sore for most Americans. A few real Republicans with a heart listened to the American people and joined the Democrats in trying to save affordable healthcare. If, God forbid, the Democrats don’t take back control of the House, Obamacare will be dead and a majority of Americans will have no health insurance. Trump is willing to destroy the healthcare of all Americans, except for his super wealthy friends and family, as a matter of spite to kill Obama’s signature legacy.
Next, after promising the LGBTQ community that he would be the best friend they ever had, even better that Obama or Hillary, he attacked the community relentlessly. He named, as Attorney General, one of the most anti-gay, and best known racist politicians, Jeff Session, who lost no time in helping to destroy those rights earned by the the gay community over the past decades. First, at Trump’s insistence transgendered Americans were banned from serving their country in the military. Even though leaders of the military were against this move Sessions and Trump moved forward, until the ACLU and a federal judge stepped in. Most recently Sessions initiated the Religious Liberties Task Force, which is a blatant move to allow so called Christians to discriminate against gay people on the grounds that gay people violated their bigoted religious beliefs. With this move the time honored tradition of Separation of Church and State was tossed aside in favor of promoting the warped beliefs and behaviors of the Christian Right. Also Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, has rescinded protections that were designed to protect transgendered students in public schools.
With the help of corrupt and cowardly Republicans, like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley and others, who undoubted have their own connections to Russia and the millions of dollars they have to offer, Trump has installed probably the richest Cabinet that has ever served our country. So much for draining the swamp! He has named a person who has vowed to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency, to be the head of that agency. Every common sense program or regulation that Obama had put into place to protect the environment and our natural parks and resources for our children and grand children have been rolled back or eliminated in favor of big oil or mining exploration. Trump has even rolled back the rules regarding emissions and fuel economy for American auto makers! The clean air we were once used to will soon be a memory of the past!
During Obama’s presidency the stature and reputation of the United States was restored after the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He rebuilt the trust in the United States held by our allies, which had diminished during the Bush years. Trump knew that Obama was popular with our allies, especially our European and North American allies, so he set out to destroy that too. Since Taking office Trump has managed to attack and insult our closest allies, including our closest and most faithful allies, Canada and the United Kingdom. He also has attacked France, Australia and Germany. His behavior in the summits with our allies has made the United States the laughing stock of the world. He even insulted the Queen! Instead of standing tall with our old and faithful allies, Trump has kissed up big time to Putin, Kim Jong Il, Philippine dictator Duterte and other totalitarian leaders. He’s definitely a dictator wannabe.
Trump has also been attacking the economic life of Americans. Because Obama was part of numerous international trade pacts, which definitely and positively affected our growing economy Trump has set out to kill the trade pacts. He has started a trade war with China and our European allies, which only after a few weeks has taken its toll on those least able to afford the higher cost of goods affected by foreign retaliation. Amazingly enough the ones most affected by Trump’s tariffs are Trump’s supporters. The cost of goods ranging from automobiles to beer is increasing for the average American. Even Trump’s beloved drink, Diet Coke, has increased in price. To Trump and his millionaire friends these costs mean nothing, but to those Americans struggling to pay housing costs, healthcare costs and the cost of food this can be devastating. Amazingly his ignorant base continue to support him, perhaps to the their own financial ruin. Through these disasters Trump has erroneously taken credit for a strong stock market and strong economy. His supporters think he has worked miracles with the economy, but he is only taking credit for what Obama has done and had started. Obama inherited a disastrous economy and steered us through a recovery, which is continuing today. Don’t forget that Trump’s business endeavors have failed. Among these are Trump Steaks, Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka, Trump Mortgage, Trump Magazine, and of course Trump University, and the list goes on in this article.
So far in his still young administration Trump’s policy has been to destroy our healthcare, our health, our environment, our economic livelihood, our global reputation and our and our children’s future. He doesn’t give a damn about the American people or anyone else for that concern. He is willing to continue with his scorched earth policy just to seek revenge on the one person whom he could never ever hold a candle to. Truly he’s a sick little man!

Monday, July 30, 2018

What is the Purpose of a Religious Liberty Task Force?

  
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    Today our illustrious Attorney General and staunch supporter of white supremacy, Jeff Sessions, announced the formation of the "Religious Liberty Task Force".  According to ABC News Sessions said the task force "will help the Department fully implement our religious  liberty guidance".  Sessions further explained that Trump's election has given the religious right the opportunity to stop the dangerous erosion of religious liberties in this country.  So what is this Religious Liberty Task Force and why it is needed?  In short this task force was established to allow racists and bigots the legal authority to discriminate against anyone who did not fit their description as a white Christian, especially gay people.

    The Trump administration's Department of Health and Human Services has quietly been, at the behest of Christian conservatives, pushing the advancement of religious freedom policies that would allow physicians, nurses, EMT's and other medical personnel to deny services to LGBTQ citizens.  A full explanation of the background and proposed workings of this task force can be found here in this article in The LGBTQ Nation.

    If there is any erosion of any liberties in this country it is the erosion of those liberties earned and now enjoyed by ALL Americans, which include the hard fought civil liberties of people of color, gay people, women, the handicapped, the elderly and immigrants.  Every since Trump illegitimately came to power, through Russian interference in our election to influence the small minority of Trump supporters, commonly caused his base, civil rights have come under attack..  Since his election the well founded tradition of separation of Church and State has all been destroyed with the help of the cowardly GOP in charge of Congress.  With Trump's desire to hold on to absolute power he has been kowtowing to white supremacists and bigots who make up his base.  Trump has become the first president who does not serve all of the citizens of the country, but only himself and those racists who help him remain in power.

During the campaign Trump stood with the rainbow flag and promised he would be the best friend the LGBTQ movement ever had.  Since his election, he and his administration have disgraced that flag and done everything they could do to roll back the rights earned by the gay community in the last 50 years.  From banning transgendered people from the military to removing protection of LGBTQ youth in our public schools, through Betsy Devos' Department of Education, Trump is doing the bidding of the Christian right.  With a complicit GOP congress gay rights will most likely be eliminated if Trump and the Republicans remain in power.  At one time we had the hope of a non-politicized Supreme Court defending the rights of all people, gay or straight, but now with Gorsich on the Court and Trump's nomination of Kavanaugh looming in our future we have little hope.  The only way this war on gay people can be stopped is if people vote in November to take back our country.  I hope that the American people realize that if Trump and the religious right succeeds in denying rights to gay people, non-whites and non-Christians will be next. They must also realize that Trump is not doing this out of religious convictions. He is doing this to stay in power and strengthen his power.  The man doesn't have a religious bone in his body!

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