The Last Chance to Save our Country?

The election of 2018 may be the last chance to save the United States from the forces that are acting to destroy our 230-year old democracy.

Donald Trump expressed his intentions many times when he was running for President. He likes to say: “Promises made, promises kept”. And indeed many of his promises are coming true:

  • He promised to overturn Roe v. Wade. This promise is about to come true.
  • He promised to stop the flow of immigrants – be they Mexican or Muslim. This promise is slowly coming true – including family separations, and continuing efforts to build the wall.
  • He promised to eliminate regulations which hamper business. This promise is leading to the elimination of regulations that protect our air, water, food, pharmaceuticals, and everything else we buy.
  • He said that “Climate Change is a hoax”, and promised to halt all US efforts to address climate change. He has succeeded in removing us from the Paris agreement and in pushing us ever further into the embrace of fossil fuels.
  • He promised to punish China. And his sledgehammer approach has punished millions of Americans as collateral damage.
  • He promised to “Repeal and Replace Obamacare”. While that didn’t work out his way, he has instead worked to slowly dismantle and cripple the Affordable Care Act.
  • Mr Trump repeatedly told his supporters that every single undocumented immigrant – of which there are 11.3 million – “have to go”. Although they are no where reaching 11 million, ICE is rounding up and deporting people by the hundreds.

These efforts are slowly turning the US into a Police state. A place where the rights of Women, Blacks, LGBT, non-Christians, and indeed all Americans who don’t agree with him are being threatened. And the Republican-led Congress has no interest in taking him on.

So what else does he want to do?

  • He promotes racial separation and violence. By refusing to condemn the KKK and Nazis, he has given such groups a license to attack others. Trump-loving hate groups such as the Proud Boys now attack others on the street with impunity.
  • He has stated that 3 million people voted illegally in 2016, and he set up an advisory Commission of Election Integrity – with the intent of reducing the voting rolls. While the commission has disbanded, Trump still wants to reduce voting rights.
  • Mr Trump said he would approve waterboarding “immediately” and “make it also much worse”, adding “torture works”. Only strong words from his Cabinet members (most of whom are now gone) forced him to back down.
  • Trump calls the Press “the enemy of the people” and said: “What you are seeing and reading in the media is not what’s happening”. He has repeatedly called for new laws to limit what the press can say.
  • When talking to Chinese President Xi, he said: “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. . . And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”

In short, Donald Trump has, in two years as President, damaged this country to the core. But he wants to do so much more. Think of the damage he could do if he has two more years of control of all three branches of government. He will have a great chance to accomplish his many other goals –  including his primary goal of cementing his hold on power so that he can eventually become “president for life” e.g. Dictator.

There is only one force that stands in the way of Trump gaining so much power that he will destroy our democracy. That force is the will of the people. But that force will likely be rendered meaningless unless it is used now – in the upcoming election.

It takes courage to vote. But it took more courage to face the British at Trenton or the Japanese on Guadalcanal. The courage of the men who fought those battles helped created the America we know today. We are now engaged in a different kind of battle, but it is no less vital to the future of the United States. All those who believe in America must find the will and the courage to vote for Democrats who will defend it from the greatest threat of this generation.

 

Michelle Obama is Wrong

Michelle Obama is wrong. On October 11, 2018, she said: “Fear is not a proper motivator.” As noble as that sentiment might be, it is wrong. Donald Trump has proven to the entire world that fear is an excellent motivator. He has motivated his base by stoking fear of immigrants, fear of Muslims, fear of the free press, and now – fear of all Democrats. And as a result, his party controls all elements of the United States government.

Now the vast majority of Americans have much to fear.

We fear that the norms of civil discourse and respect in our society are decaying – with the President modeling behaviors that nobody would want of their children.

We fear that society is becoming more unequal – with the 1% gaining more money and power and the remainder of us fighting for the dregs.

We fear that our healthcare options will be stripped away, leaving us unable to afford decent healthcare and financially vulnerable to a health crisis.

We fear that rights that are protected by the Constitution are being systematically stripped away by the Republican dominated Legislative and Judicial branches.

We fear that Women’s rights are being eroded, at first slowly, but now with increasing speed and severity.

We fear that the regulations that protect our food, water, the goods we buy, and the services we use are being rolled back in ways that jeopardize our safety and security.

We fear that pollution and greenhouse gasses are destroying the planet’s ability to support life for future generations.

We fear that people who are non-white, non-christian, or non-hetero will be discriminated against or worse with no legal recourse because the courts are not supportive.

We fear that those who have money and power can do as they please with disregard for the law and human decency with no repercussions.

We fear that those who speak up about the abuse they have suffered will be humiliated, dismissed, and hounded by the self-appointed right wing trolls.

We fear that the very fabric of our society has been torn, and it is only getting worse.

But we can’t let fear paralyze us. There is still time for hope and goodness to prevail. But the window of time is closing. The longer that Republicans control the levers of government, the more damage they can do.

Historians will look back on the past two years as a very dark time in American history. This election will decide whether that darkness will deepen and our democracy will fall further into the abyss, or whether the people will take back their country and begin the long climb back to the land of the free and home of the brave. All Patriots MUST VOTE. Nothing is more important.

 

America’s Future at Risk

We live in a world in which only the fittest will survive and prosper. This is a basic law of nature, and it applies to nations just the same as it applies to the creatures of the jungle.

America has, for the past 100+ years, been the strongest nation in the world, and all of us have prospered because of our position of strength. It didn’t happen all at once. A series of smart decisions, many of them made more than 50 years ago, all led to today’s position as the world’s one true superpower. But we live in dangerous times, and our long term position is at risk. While these risks may not impact anyone over 75, they will impact our children, and their children and so on down the generations. As adults, we must do our part to protect and preserve the viability of this country so that our children and grandchildren may thrive.

Lets talk for a bit about Risk Management. Risk Management is the science of identifying risks, prioritizing the most severe, and developing strategies to either avoid them or mitigate their impacts. This strategy is employed every day in business and by our military. But we never seem to apply it to the most important topic – the long term success of the United States.

So what are the biggest risks to the future of American greatness over the next 25-50 years? If you were to watch Fox News or read Breitbart, you’d think the biggest risks are radical Islam, immigration, and North Korea. Let’s examine the risks posed to the existence of the US by each of them.

Radical Islam (Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, etc.) clearly poses a threat to the lives of ordinary Americans. They have killed thousands of American civilians (mostly on September 11, 2001) over the past 20 or so years. But do they pose a threat to the American nation? Hardly. Taken collectively, they could never defeat even a small fraction of the mightiest military that the world has ever known. Nor do they have nuclear weaponry that can take out American cities and devastate  our economy. They have to be classified as a low-priority risk to the US.

Immigration is seen by some to pose a threat to our very way of life. But, as a nation of immigrants, those who are here have always been suspicious of the next group who are different. Just as there were fears of the papist Irish, the ignorant Slavs from Eastern Europe, and the orientals, now there are fears of Hispanics, Africans, and especially Moslems. Unchecked and completely unimpeded immigration would be a risk to the US. But we haven’t had that since 1924, and nobody is advocating such a thing. What we have had over the past 90 years is a slow but steady influx of new, dynamic, risk taking people who come to America because they believe this is the land of opportunity and freedom. And this level of immigration has been a good thing, revitalizing, renewing and continuing to diversify America in ways that are true to our core principles. This doesn’t mean that there are no casualties from immigration – of course there are. We need to address those issues and fix them. But controlled immigration is not a threat to the existence of the US – in fact it adds much more to the success of this country than it costs. As long as we keep doing basically what we’ve been doing since 1924, immigration is a low-priority (or maybe non-existent) risk to the US.

North Korea clearly does propose a real risk to the US. Given that is has nuclear weapons, ICBMs, and a stridently belligerent leader, a level of risk cannot be denied. But what is the level of risk? Can they destroy enough of America to bring about the collapse of our government or destruction of our economy? This answer is probably no for now, but possibly changes to yes in a few short years. So this is a risk. And although the past six Presidents have seen it as such, it has continued to grow from a small risk to a much greater risk. The Trump administration clearly recognizes the risk, but as of yet they do not seem to have developed a strategy to mitigate or avoid it. North Korea is a risk and should be a top concern.

But there are other risks to the future of America that the Trump Administration is ignoring. The biggest long term risks to the US are elimination of our free institutions, and climate change.

The government of a democratic nation by definition represents the will of the people. But what if outside forces can bend the will of the people without their knowledge, or worse yet, subvert the will of the people by manipulating elections. If that is the case, then the “democratic” nation is merely a puppet state of another nation. There is no question that, in 2016, Russia attempted to bend the will of the people through propaganda and subvert the will of the people by altering votes. And they succeeded. So now we have an administration, and numerous members of Congress who have been elected on the basis of Russian manipulation. And not surprisingly, they have no interest in investigating this issue or dosing anything from preventing it from happening again. This is a true threat to the independence of the United States. As Russia gets better and smarter at hacking and manipulating the electorate, Republicans do nothing, hoping that once again the Russians will back them. And when the President and his allies cast doubts upon the independent reporting of a free press, they are further playing into the hands of the Russians. These actions pose the greatest short-term threat to the independence of America.

Luckily, the foundational institutions of our democracy, the FBI, CIA, Justice system, and elections system, have great internal integrity due to the patriotism of their apolitical employees. But they are all under attack by Trump and his allies (knowingly or unknowingly) on behalf of the Russians. All Americans who believe in the independence of this nation must do their part to take back our democracy. At a minimum, they must vote – against those who want to destroy our independent free press, our independent judicial system, and our independent elections. They must vote against all Russian-backed candidates – which today means they must vote against Republicans. And all who can must do more to spread the word.

If we can overcome the short-term risk of Russian manipulation, then we must confront the long term risk to America, and to the planet from climate change. Climate change is real and we are feeling its initial impacts already. But much more is to come. Changes in weather patterns will lead to widespread droughts which will lead to widespread famine. Sea level rise will lead to coastal inundation which will cause massive displacement of people worldwide. These impacts will be exacerbated by overpopulation and destruction of the natural environment. While these impacts will be fall the hardest on those nations that have the least resources, there will be no escaping them in the US. It is imperative that our government focus all possible energy on developing long term strategies to both minimize the severity of climate change and to mitigate its impacts. This is the biggest threat to the future of America. We need to act as if we care.

Is Science Important?

We all understand that our World has been made much better through the advances in science over the past 500+ years. Humans used to believe that the Earth was the center of the Universe and the Sun revolved around it. They also used to believe that the disease came from evil spirits. We now know these things to be untrue, but at one time these were all accepted facts. In each case, one or more Scientists developed theories (Gravity, Germ Theory, etc.) that form some of the most basic underpinnings of science and we now accept as fact.

But two of the most important theories of science today are denied by the Republican Party. These are the theory of Evolution, and the theory of Human induced Climate Change. the evidence for both of these theories is overwhelming in its weight. You can’t begin to explain biology without evoking Evolution – which is a fundamental to Biology as Gravity is to Physics. And you can’t explain any of the changes that we are all experiencing in our daily world (winter without snow, drought, increasingly violent storms, etc.) without Climate Change. Republicans say that the science is “unproven” – which is technically true of virtually every theory, including the theory of Gravity (You explain how the sun exerts a gravitational pull on the Earth across 93 million miles – because nobody ever has). No theory has been “proven” beyond any doubt, but when a theory predicts, with a VERY high degree of confidence, a certain set of results, it becomes adopted as the basis for policy decisions by those in charge. Until now, the US has been a leader in adopting science-based policies, which has been one of many factors that has driven our success over the past two hundred years.

Someone recently offered a simple analogy. If your child was sick, and you took her to 100 doctors, and 98% of them diagnosed the same disease, and gave the same prescription for recovery, would you listen to the opinion of the 98% or the 2% who (loudly) gave a different diagnosis and proposed a different (or no) treatment). With Climate Change, the science is about 98% to 2% today. With Evolution, the science is about 99.5% to 0.5%. Yet Donald Trump thinks is a hoax, and many Republicans in Congress agree. The National Republican’s Platform doesn’t say anything explicit about Evolution, but the Republican Texas Party [http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/06/28/the-texas-republican-party-platform/] wants to teach Creationism (Religion) as an alternate to science.

History tells us what happens to nations that deny the evidence of Science and make decisions based on dogma. For forty years, the Soviet Union espoused the theory of Lysenkoism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism] rather than the theory of genetics (which was not consistent with communist dogma) as the underpinning to its agricultural seed production policies. The results – millions of Soviet citizens starved to death, and the Soviet Union today has ceased to exist.

Now that Republicans have gained control, they are making decisions based on dogma rather than science. In a world dominated by science, where our Nation’s (and the world’s) success is based on maximizing the possibilities that science offers, how can they lead this county forward if the deny basic science?

Science creates our technology and also our weapons. When we deny science, we deny the very thing that keeps our nation strong. Our future is at stake.