Last week Republicans discovered it’s a lot easier to complain about how the other side is getting it all wrong than it is to figure out what is right when their own health care plan went down in flames. I think a lot of that is because it’s a lot easier to get people to rally around generic slogans that fit nicely on bumper stickers than it is to agree on the specifics of a plan. Also, the specifics of a plan takes a while to put together and if you haven’t done any of the ground work for that, it’s hard to throw that together in just a couple of weeks.

“Repeal and Replace” makes for a wonderful rallying cry, but it’s not a policy you can implement. Replace with what is kind of a big deal. “Build the Wall” is a great representation that you are going to get tough on illegal immigration, but it’s not an actual immigration policy. “Make America Great Again” sounds awesome! But it’s not an actual plan. “Drain the Swamp” is easy to chant, but what does it actually mean?

That said, I think people heard those things and said ‘hey, Trump and the GOP is going to do something’ and they just either weren’t worried about the details and filled in the gaps with their own details. And you could make the case that why should the average voter be worried about details. Isn’t that why we have a government in the first place, to deal with the details? Meanwhile the Democrats may have better policy detail, they have lousy slogans and bumper stickers.  “I’m With Her” is not really that much removed from “Vote For Me…Just Because”. “Stronger Together” doesn’t really point to any particular policy. More than ever, we are discovering that elections are really all about marketing, period.

The GOP may learn a thing or two from Democrats about policy making. But the Democrats could learn a thing or two from the GOP about marketing.

trump-gop

After about a month of President Trump, it seems to me that Trump actually cares about very few things and certainly doesn’t have much of any actual policies in mind, so he mostly delegates all that and as long as he gets to pretend to be the big man in charge by making a ridiculous show out of signing things and showing them off, he really doesn’t care much about what he’s actually signing off on. That means in such as policy is actually being driven, it’s mostly being driven by the people around Trump. Here’s how I see the breakdown:

WHAT TRUMP CARES ABOUT:

  • Trump (and the “brand”) – Trump has little ability to see beyond himself. (Plenty of evidence for that, but here’s an example. Trump has already filed his candidacy for the 2020 Presidential election. Why? So he can legally begin fundraising for his campaign. Why hasn’t this been done before? Because by fundraising for himself, he takes away from fundraising for other GOP candidates for the mid-term elections. But of course he really doesn’t care about that.) He desperately wants to be taken seriously (which I believe was his whole point of running for President, not for any particular agenda and vision he had or the nation). So most of Trump’s care is simply to be seen as the most awesomely awesome President (and thus most awesomely awesome man) the world has ever seen.
  • Trump Organization – In as such as he’s interested in using Presidential powers, it’s simply to enrich himself and his organization. So if being President helps him win a long sought after trademark in China, great. If it can help him drum up business for his hotels and resorts and for his daughter’s business, all the better. And that’s my concern with Russia. Trump is not necessarily wrong that good relations between the U.S. and Russia is not a bad thing. BUT, my concern is that we are really talking about good relations between TRUMP and Russia, and Trump is simply looking out for the good of his business in Russia and may be willing to sacrifice what’s best for the nation for that purpose.
  • The Wall – And I mean the wall itself. I’m not sure how much Trump really cares about immigration. But he wants that damn wall…not a virtual wall, a tangible wall you can see and touch. I think this has something to do with the idea that Trump likes buildings and slapping TRUMP on them…it’s almost as though it doesn’t count if it’s not a physical tangible thing. Heck, if that wall does get built, I wouldn’t be surprised if he slaps TRUMP on top of it. Probably thinks it can be a tourist attraction he can sell tickets to see.

WHAT TRUMP AND GOP CARE ABOUT:

  • Hatred of the media – Actually for Trump, not hatred of the media in general. He loves being on tv and craves the attention. Trump hates critical media (defined as anything short of gushing praise for Trump). No doubt Trump can’t even handle the minimum of criticism (not a new development, he never has), and since getting criticism is just part of the job of being President, it is truly driving him crazy (and that’s his one and only concern, how they report on Trump, he could care less about reports on policy and the GOP). But many on the conservative side of the fence have also long tried to discredit the “mainstream” (as they like to say derisively) media in favor of outlets such as Fox News, Breitbart, & Drudge that more actively push their agenda. So I think Trump’s war on the media is very welcomed by many on the right.

WHAT THE GOP CARE ABOUT:

  • Repeal of Obamacare – There will be no policy in regards to healthcare coming from the White House. I mean, I don’t think they have the ability to produce one if they tried, but they also don’t care enough to try. Trump repeated this over and over because that’s simply a box you have to check if you are running as a Republican politician. But anything that actually happens will be the result of the GOP itself. While there’s no doubt that Obama was the driving force behind the Affordable Care Act (so “Obamacare” was apt), the GOP will be the driving force behind anything that happens going forward so the result should be called “Republicare” or “GOPCare”.
  • Immigration Policy – Steve Bannon is who comes up with this stuff. Trump just signs off on it. It’s Steve Bannon’s world view that drove the refugee/immigrant executive order debacle. It’s Steve Bannon’s belief that the United States is being overran by immigrants (both illegal AND legal) that leads to his belief that extreme actions are necessary.
  • Pulling Support From Transgender School Children Bathroom Rights – This has Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions written all over it. In fact, reportedly even Besty Devos was reluctant to go along with it, but Jeff Sessions pretty much made it a ‘either me or her’ situation and Devos relented when it became clear it was either go along or lose your job. While I don’t think Trump has strong views on this, it is important to note when push came to shove which side of the fence he landed. He’s mostly surrounded by far right advisors and he will go along with what they say.
  • Supreme Court nominees – Trump released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees during his campaign which basically mimics lists from the Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks. Trump doesn’t care enough to put any thought into this, so copying a list from a conservative group is the ‘easy button’.

I think the bottom line is this, if the issue involves Trump personally, then Trump is driving the boat. If the issue is anything that involves actual policy, then it’s somebody on Trump’s team, like Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, etc. and Trump is just going along. In fact, that seems to be the deal. The far-right tolerates Trump’s selfish tendencies and in return Trump goes along with their far-right agenda.

So you have a lot of bad here. A selfish President who doesn’t give a damn about conflicts-of-interest. An administration who has far-right viewpoints who don’t get any push back as long as they show their loyalty to Trump. Add to the fact that Trump and his team (which were picked based on loyalty, not knowledge) seem completely incompetent (though at times that probably accidentally works in this nation’s favor, as they are less effective as they could be at implementing their far-right agenda), and we are in for a very messy chaotic few years.

Only on CNN would they debate "alternative facts".

Only on CNN would they debate “alternative facts”.

The things you see on the interwebs….

#AlternativeFacts:

  1. Donald Trump won over 3,000 of the 3,144 countries in the United States.

    I’m not sure why there’s a need to exaggerate this, except for some desperation for Trump and his supporters to find some angle to declare his victory the greatest mankind has ever seen. But just a cursory amount of research reveals that this “fact” is not true, even in Alabama alone Hillary won 12 counties….and goodness knows Alabama is not a politically diverse state! The fact is Hillary actually won nearly 500 counties. Which still means if for some odd reason you want to compare county “wins”, Trump won bigly. That said, it mostly just looks good when you color in a map. But the thing is, a good many of those counties are sparsely populated…meaning you are basically taking credit for winning landmass or something.So Trump won a bunch a counties. Hillary won 2.5 million more actual breathing people votes. Neither matter though, Trump won the Electoral College and that’s what counts.
  2. More people watched Trump’s Presidential inauguration than any other in history.

    Not going to show the pictures again, but of course this is obviously not true. The television ratings are something that are tangible, and they clearly show Trump’s wasn’t the most watched. Which should be ok, if not for Trump’s odd obsession that it has to be the most watched.
  3. The Bowling Green Massacre.

    Who could forget the Bowling Green Massacre…except the darn lamestream media didn’t cover it!!!? Had it happened, I’m sure that’s what it would have been called and it would have been covered, but it didn’t. Just something Kellyanne Conway threw out there to justify the immigration/refugee ban Trump signed in an interview with Chris Matthews. She’s gaslighting. Did she think she would totally get away with it? No, I don’t think so. But she was banking on Chris Matthews not challenging it on the spot, either because he wasn’t confident enough to do or (more likely in my opinion) he wasn’t actually listening. That to go along with a non apologetic half-assed correction that people may or may not even see, and you have successfully muddied the waters of reality.
  4. President Obama totally did the same thing as Trump when it came to Iraqi refugees.

    Except no he didn’t. Nobody was ever stuck in limbo at the airport. In fact, the refugee flow from Iraq never even came to a complete stop. This is related to the item above. Two Iraqi refugees were arrested in Kentucky accused of plotting a terrorist attack. In response, President Obama did ask for more screening for Iraqi refugees as a result. This did slow the processing. But the differences are clear…one it wasn’t a ban and two it was in response to an actual specific situation and thus narrowly defined.
  5. Michigan allows Muslims to sign up to four wives to welfare.

    Apparently people really think this is true. Of course it’s ridiculous. My question for those who believe, even if you believe Democrats would do such a thing (and of course you do, those Muslim loving American hating hippies would so totally do that!) do you really think the GOP governor and GOP controlled legislature in Michigan would allow such a thing to stand?
  6. The United States does not take in Christian refugees from Syria.

    This claim was made by Donald Trump on the Christian Broadcasting Network. But there is no evidence for such a claim. There is a disparity between the numbers (though keep in mind that Syria is 87% Muslim in the first place), but the most basic explanation is that Christians simply aren’t seeking refugee status in the same proportions as Muslims are. The United States have and continues to accept Christian refugees from Syria and there’s no evidence of any extra hoops they have to jump through (however there’s no evidence there are any LESS hoops they have to jump through either, and perhaps that is what is really viewed as the problem for some).
  7. Americans simply do not care to see Trump’s IRS tax returns.

    This is pretty much the standard line from Trump and everyone else speaking on his behalf. The theory goes that since we won without releasing them, no one must care. That seems to fail to account for the 54% of the voters who didn’t vote for Donald Trump. It also fails to account for voters who voted for Trump in despite of Trump not releasing his taxes, not because they didn’t care. Polling data shows that Americans do want him to release his tax returns.
  8. Donald Trump has YUGGE hands!

    No he doesn’t. They are small. They are tiny. They are like baby hands. That’s just facts. 🙂

 

 

 

 

divided

Top Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway had a bit of what I believe was a Freudian slip when she explained that Trump’s press secretary had presented “alternative facts” in a “press briefing” (which as it turns out was more of a press scolding) in regards to number of people who watched Trump’s inauguration. Of course facts are facts, there are no alternatives. But as I see some wonder how Trump supporters can ‘twist themselves in knots’ of logic in order to support him, it occurs to me that the idea of “alternative facts” is actually instructive. I would propose that the typical Trump supporter is not having to twist themselves in knots at all and actually based on the “facts” being presented to them are thinking quite rationally.

So I bit the bullet and watched a bit of Fox & Friends on the Fox News Network. It really didn’t take a big bite though, only about 60 seconds on three different occasions was enough to get the flavor. Now keep in mind that Fox News Network’s hook is that they are “fair and balanced”. But even most that acknowledge that Fox News are biased toward right-wing politics consider Fox News a legitimate news organization. So if you are a viewer, you don’t really have much reason to question the veracity of what you are watching…maybe biased….maybe even fair. Here’s what I learned on those 3 occasions:

  • Day 1: What a four days for Trump! He has had 14 major accomplishments already. 14!!! Also, Trump is going to open an investigation regarding voter fraud. Voter fraud is something that has been reported many times on this network, so it’s about time.
  • Day 2: Is Donald Trump “draining the swamp”? Guest Herman Cain says that all he can say is “wow!”. You betcha Donald Trump is draining the swamp. If he has to assign a grade, it’s A+!
  • Day 3: We totally need “extreme vetting” to protect us from the greatest threat this nation faces today! All Trump is doing is putting a pause on things until we can separate the terrorists from the innocent and not just let people in here all willy-nilly. And besides, the “mainstream” media is making a WAY bigger deal of this than it really is. And besides, this affects so FEW people so we shouldn’t care. And besides, no one really cares, this is just Democrats like Elizabeth Warren stirring up trouble. (The hosts did allow that perhaps the executive order’s implementation could have been done better.) And besides, just look at Germany and what happened there!

Now just imagine if these are the “facts” that you presented with. It’s not hard to imagine that you would wonder why anyone would be down on Trump. After all, 14 major accomplishments is just 4 days? Here’s a man who gets things done, just like he said he would! And why would anyone oppose an investigation into voter fraud? Everyone knows that voter fraud is rampant, I’ve seen it reported many times. And finally somebody is ridding Washington of those insider elitists! Way to go Trump! And finally, the President is putting “America First” and keeping us safe from the terrorists….why shouldn’t we figure things out before letting ANYONE in???!!!

When you consider the above information, the above “facts”, then the resulting opinions are really not irrational at all.

Of course, here’s the flip-side of how I and many others see these facts and resulting thoughts:

  • Trump has signed a bunch of executive orders and made many decrees. These have ranged from the pointless (signing an executive order to “build the wall” doesn’t get a wall built) to the wasteful (ordering the National Park Service to find evidence that the crowd at his inauguration was the largest ever) to the potentially damaging (the executive order implementing was is basically meant to be the “Muslim ban”). But we would be hard-pressed to find a “major” accomplishment (which is kind of silly to think would have happened in only one week anyway).As far as voter fraud goes, there is no evidence that it occurs in Presidential elections and that enough non-citizens voted to cost Trump the popular vote is statistically absurd (to hit the numbers Trump is citing, 15% to 25% of all the about 20 million non-citizens would have had to have somehow voted and then almost all for Hillary). The reason that Trump got fewer votes than Hillary Clinton is that more people legally casted a vote for her than for him (Occam’s razor). Trump’s need to investigate this is more about his insecurities and bruised ego than any actual problem that needs to be investigated and solved.
  • Trump’s cabinet picks are made up of a combination of Wall Street insiders, multi-billionaires, and political establishment cronies, many of whom seem unqualified for the position they are up for. Sure “swamp” has never been explicitly defined. But I think Wall Street insiders, multi-billionaires, and political establishment cronies are what a lot of people think of when they think D.C. “swamp”.
  • We aren’t letting people into this country all willy-nilly and never were. The vetting process for refugees takes two years or more and is all ready designed to separate the terrorists from the innocent. And also placing a religious litmus test on those proceedings appears unconstitutional. And besides, the number of refugee terrorist attacks in the U.S. stands at zero. And besides, even if this was a good idea and even if protecting us from terrorists is the goal, why does the list of nations included not include nations where the 9/11 terrorists and others were from while no one from the listed nations have ever committed a terrorist act on U.S. soil? And besides, why does the order include legal residents of this nation who only want to return home? And besides, those who were on the plane had already received permission from this nation to enter, are we really going to renege on our own word? And besides, no matter what the purpose, isn’t drafting and releasing such an executive order without input from the Department of Justice, State Department, or Homeland Security a terrible idea? And besides, these are people like you and I, moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas and children who just want to be safe. Isn’t America about being the shining beacon that guides freedom loving people everywhere?

Under this backdrop, what is going on doesn’t appear rationale at all and who could support such things?

Not sure how we can reconcile these differing views of the country. It just appears to be a recipe for divisiveness. That may well be the point. Somebody made a comment that with these “alternative facts” to muddy the waters, roughly a third of the people will believe them, a third will say they are lies and the last third will just throw their hands in the air and just decide the truth is not knowable and check out completely. Under such circumstances, you don’t need a consensus of the majority to do anything, just more of a consensus than anyone else that’s actually engaged.

Not sure where this goes. The days where we all get our news from one of three major networks and/or a mainstream newspaper are long gone. Still, I don’t know how we can have honest debates and discussions and dialogues and compromise and consensus building if we can’t even agree on the facts.

  • “Fake News” is now a weapon of the right. So what “fake news” in my mind is actual purposely fake news. It’s not biased journalism. It’s not poor journalism. It’s not even mistaken journalism. It’s the purposeful act of completely fabricating stories by non-journalists in order to generate clicks on Facebook and such while attempting to appear as if it’s from an actual news organization. It’s stories from the “Denver Guardian” or the “Baltimore Gazette” (neither the “Denver Guardian” nor the “Baltimore Gazette” exist, but “news stories” from them spread like wildfire on Facebook).

    But what “fake news” has come to mean is any story you don’t like. The right have been trying to discredit mainstream media for years, and they finally have found traction by declaring everything “fake news”. So for Trump, CNN is now “fake news”. So is the BBC. So will anyone else that prints anything he doesn’t like. Unfair to Trump is anything critical to him. He sent a message by not taking CNN’s questions. Cover me favorably or lose access. It will be interesting to see how the media responds.

  • Trump actually brought a personal cheerleading section to a Presidential press conference. Seriously. There to cheer him and jeer the media. Were they paid? Of course they were (though I guess actually getting paid for work from Trump may be newsworthy in itself!). But he doesn’t have security issues, oh no.
  • Trump likes his props. Look at that big stack of “agreements”. Can we see what is in them? Hahahaha! Of course not! A big stack of folders should be all the evidence you need that this administration is going to be so totally beyond reproach when it comes to “conflict of interest”! Oh, tax returns? Bwhahahaha! I didn’t give those to you when I was a mere candidate, I sure as heck not giving those to you know that I’m freakin’ President! But trust me, it’s all good. I’m giving control of my company to my sons. TOTAL SEPARATION. Everyone knows that the only kid I like is Ivanka. So it’s totally good, what you all call a “problem” is solved! Sure, ethics experts totally disagree, but what do they know? They’re fake news.
  • Not that they think they have to do ANYTHING about “conflict of interest”. During the middle of the conference, Trump’s lawyer took to the podium and she sure spent a whole lot more time explaining why Trump didn’t actually have to do anything (but he is just doing so because that’s how swell of a guy he is). Conflict of interest laws don’t apply…make sure you remember that. Also, getting hotel money from foreign leaders is totally not emoluments y’all. Oh he’s not going to take the money, but be sure to know he could if he wanted to. (There had to be a point to all that. My guess is that it has to do with Trump’s many foreign holdings. Speaking of which, for all the talk of potential conflicts of interest with the Clinton Foundation, the Trump business sure seems to have many actual tangible conflicts of interest.)
  • Donald Trump likes to refer to himself in the third person.
  • Trump says he could totally be both President and continue to run his company and do a good job with both. So I guess he thinks being President is just a part-time job? Or maybe it’s just a part-time job for him, being so super-duper amazing.

 

 

I wrote this blog post a year ago before Christmas. I hope as the holiday season is upon us, along with all the fun and important time with family and friends, we also take the time to think about others with empathy. We all don’t have the same circumstances or advantages or disadvantages or backgrounds or means and that what may be good for you or I may not be good for your fellow men, women, and children. So with Christmas upon us once again, in addition to the normal festivities, I call for us all as best as we can to think beyond just ourselves or even beyond our own family and friends to a wider perspective. We really are ‘stronger together’ and the more we strive to make all lives better, the better off we all will be. I am reposting this blog article as just a reminder that there is more we have in common that not. Merry Christmas everyone!

https://gesvol.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/no-matter-who-you-are/

different

No matter who you are or where you come from, or what you look like or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God….”  President Obama said this during his prime time speech regarding ISIS.  A church I attend semi-regularly goes further, “No matter…no matter what your standing is in the community, or where you live, no matter your age, no matter your gender or race, no matter who you are, where you come from or where you’re going, no matter what you believe or doubt, no matter who you love, God loves you, and you are welcome here.”

With the horrible acts and hateful rhetoric as of late, I think it is time we try to put things back into perspective.  While we have all kinds of different experiences and circumstances, the bottom line is we are all people.  Men, women, and children.  And it’s in all of our best interests to keep in mind that we all play on “team humankind” at the end of the day.

I think sometimes we forget when we throw labels around, like “refugees” or “Muslim” or “gays” or “liberals” or “conservatives” or even sometimes still “blacks” or the “poor”, we are talking about actual people.  Now if we focus on just our differences and decide some groups don’t “belong”, we need to keep some stats in mind.  Religiously, 20% of 6.9 billion people worldwide claim no religion, and of the 80% remaining, about 30% are Christian, 23% are Muslim, 15% are Hindu, with the other 32% or so belonging to all sorts of other religions (ignoring that within “Christian”, “Muslim”, etc. there are all sorts of subgroups).  Race?  Around 25% East Asian, 21% South Asian, 16% “white”, 15% “black”, 8% “Middle Eastern”, 9% Southeast Asian, and 8% Central/South American.  The number of homosexuals, while unknown, likely number in the hundreds of millions worldwide.  The male/female breakdown is close to 50/50.  Over 3 billion people worldwide live on less than $2.50 per day.  At least in this country, 38% self identify as conservative, 34% as moderate, and 24% as liberal.

All of this is to say, no matter how you divvy up a world of 6.9 billion people, if we focus on our differences, and allow our biases, our prejudices, our fears, and our hatred be our guide, we will always be divided and there will be no winners.  We all lose.

However, people have key similarities.  We all smile when we are joyful.  We all enjoy music.  We all have fears.  We all are playful.  We all have the same basic necessities for survival:  food, water, shelter, warmth, security.  We all have the same desire to be treated with dignity and respect.  We all have feelings.  We all have family.  To paraphrase the Dalia Lama, we all just want happiness and on that fundamental level, we are the same.

Christmas is just around the corner and a phrase you will see and hear a lot this time of year is “Peace on Earth and good will toward men.”  As we all continue to deal with issues and policies and all the messiness of the world, I think we would do well to keep this phrase in mind and that on a fundamental level, we are the same, as we consider the words we speak and the actions we suggest and/or take.

The day after election day University of Alabama football head coach said, “To be honest with you, I didn’t even know yesterday was Election Day. It was so important to me that I didn’t even know it was happening, we’re focused on other things here.” But hey, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. His “problem” is football and we’ve decided that “problem” is worth a LOT of money to work on. Still, it’s hard to believe Nick Saban doesn’t have any concerns or opinions beyond football. Fortunately shortly after the playoff committee announced that Alabama was ranked number one, I scored an exclusive interview with Nick Saban:

Me: Thank you Mr. Saban for taking the time to sit with me to answer a few questions. Congratulations on your team making the playoffs by the way.

Saban: Thank you. I’m so happy for our team and fans.

Me: You don’t look happy.

Saban: I am happy.

Me: Um, are you sure?

Saban: This is my smile.

nick-saban-1

 

 

 

 

Me: ??????

Me: Um……ok. Moving on. So I know you say you don’t pay attention to politics and all, but surely you have some thoughts beyond football. For instance, taxes, what are….

Saban: Taxes? The Crimson Tide Foundation pays my taxes. Everyone should just get a foundation to pay their taxes.

Me: Uh, that’s not how the world work….

Saban: They pay for my house too. Everyone should try it. Then you can just focus on the “process”…Alabama football.

Me: Er….ok. Maybe we should stick to football then. So what are your thoughts on your upcoming opponent Washington?

Saban: What’s a Washington?

Me: Well to start off with it’s a state….

Saban: States???? Oh…those are type of things those know-it-all professors want to fill my players’ heads with rather than football. Look, I don’t have time for geography, we are focused on other things here. Wished those pointy-heads in academics would get that through their thick skulls.

Me: Ok, ok, forget that….it’s a football team, the one you play next. Your thoughts?

Saban: My thoughts? When is the game?

Me: December 31st.

Saban: December 31st??!!! Grrr….for Christ sakes! You people in the media just don’t get it. It’s all about the “process”. One game at a time? Pfft. Probably what they do at Auburn. Or Tennessee….winning those…what did Butch call it….championships of life? Almost makes me laugh. Almost. Then it makes me puke. Here we focus on one second at a time! What can we do to be better football players this very next second??!!!! In fact I already forgot your question, because I’m focused on the next second.

Me: Oh I am SO sorry…uh, are you still smiling?

nick-saban-1

 

 

 

 

Me: Nevermind. Ok, this is going nowhere. You have anything you want to say? Whatever.

Saban: Look, your world confuses me. Elections? Why elephants and donkeys? Will the super moon light the world on fire? When I get a text on my I-Phone 7, did magic trolls make that happen? I don’t know. I’m just a caveman football coach. I don’t have time for figure out such trivial matters. But there is one thing I do know. Pay me no less than $7 million a year and a free house and I’ll win you a shit-ton of National Championships that will make you forget that Bear loser!

Me: Bear Bryant?

Saban: How the hell should I know? I forgot him already.

Me: Alright then. Well, thank you for your time.

Saban: Who are you and what the f&%k are you doing in my office???!!!

Me: Leaving sir!!!!