Monday, December 21, 2015

Facts Must Trump Politics

Update 8-4-16:

There are some related articles elsewhere on this site,  one of which seems to be modestly popular with readers (the 7-29-16 article).  Another one is just a funny (the 4-24-16 article).  All share the search keyword “idiocy in politics”.  Here’s the list:

8-4-16….Evaluation of Choices for 2016
7-29-16…..Stuff You Normally Do Not Think About
6-5-16…….Trump?  NO!!
4-24-16….Better Choices in November
12-21-15..Facts Must Trump Politics  (this one)

Update 7-27-16:  Today Trump publicly appealed to (state-supported) Russian hackers to uncover the missing Clinton state department emails.  Considering the bad state of affairs between the US and Russia,  due largely to Putin's ambitions for a new Russian empire,  this is borderline treason on Trump's part.  

"Aid and comfort to the enemy" with 6+ witnesses,  per the definition.  Putin wants Trump to win and hates Clinton.  He is trying to sway our election for his own purposes by releasing hacked Clinton files.  I really do not like that.  And I really hate the prospect of a president the Russians can influence so easily to their own ends.  

Update 6-12-16:  It's Clinton vs Trump for sure.  I absolutely do not want loose-cannon Trump!  

The real question now is whether Clinton can overcome her trust issues well enough to pull in Sanders voters and beat Trump,  come November.  And,  there is the Elizabeth Warren factor.  I submit that both Warren and Sanders be made part of Clinton's proposed government for the Nov '16 ticket.  

I would recommend that Sanders be Clinton's VP,  and Warren be made some high cabinet post.  That would re-energize all the Sanders voters,  so that they would turn out and help greatly to defeat Trump.  Plus,  having Sanders in the White House as VP would put the brakes on Clinton's "shyster lawyer" attitude problem,  that causes all the negative trust issues she brings.  Plus,  having Warren in the cabinet helps pull in more yet of the newly-rising "left" in the Democratic party.  It's not about being totally-centrist anymore.  

I think it more important that Sanders be VP and Warren a Cabinet member,  than the other way around.  I think this would re-unify the Democrats better,  and contribute far more toward defeating Trump in November.  The shirt-tail effect says that Democrats could regain control of the Senate and perhaps the House,  in November,  if this is a convincing-enough win of the White House.  

As for "shyster lawyer" attitude problems with Clinton,  these summarize succinctly as (1) "rules are for other people",  and (2) "I'm only sorry I got caught".  She really needs somebody to offset these liabilities.  Sanders could do that better than Warren.

The matter of fact or fiction should be an objective decision.  Politics (or any other predilection) has nothing to do with whether something is factual or not.  This is something far too often ignored by politicians and appointed officials.   It is ignored by too many voters,  as well. 

Finger on the Nuclear Button

Anybody with their finger on the nuclear trigger button needs to base their decisions on real,  verifiable facts.  If they have a predilection for fictions instead of fact,  they are not qualified to hold that position.  Too much is stake to allow “convenient lies”,  or election-campaign “sound bites”,  or party agenda to substitute for rational and informed thought. 


Anybody with decision-making authority about immigration needs to base their decisions on real,  verifiable facts.   It is simply too easy to discriminate arbitrarily if these decisions are made based on political fictions.   This evil usually takes the form of a scapegoat group to be blamed for all ills,  which is really how you recognize when you are being lied to.   The last notable example was Adolf Hitler,  who blamed Jews for everything wrong in Germany after World War 1.  And then he tried to kill them all.   And we all know how well that episode turned out. 

Safety Net Programs

Anybody making decisions about the social safety nets we choose to employ (such as Social Security and Medicare) needs to make those decisions upon verifiable facts.  To do otherwise is egregious discrimination against those who happen not to be so very wealthy.   Such discrimination is wrong,  no matter what form it takes.

Regulations on the Economy

Anyone making decisions about the regulations upon our economy needs to base their decisions upon verifiable fact,  including the historically-demonstrated fact that completely-unregulated capitalism has always degenerated into piracy and economic slavery.  It’s simply not a fair market if there are no rules to ensure fair play. 

Regulated to avoid these abuses,  capitalism then takes its rightful place as the most powerful engine of creation ever devised by man.  These are the “two-sides-of-the-same-coin” facts that should never be “trumped” by political ideologies.  From any party,  or any sub-group.

Climate Change

Anybody making decisions about what to do in response to climate change needs to base their decisions upon verifiable facts,  including the demonstrated reality of climate change,  regardless of who or what might be causing it.  Much more than just this year’s bottom lines for some giant corporations is involved with this issue. 

In General

Similar considerations apply to any issue one cares to raise.   Facts are key,  and what is fact is not a political decision. 

My message is this:  pay attention to fact-checking when political campaigns go on.  You will have to take off your political blinders and propaganda lenses to do this effectively.  Ditch the political belief systems.  Do not believe the propaganda.  Look only at what actually “is”.  Candidates who play fast and loose with facts are simply not qualified to make decisions about your lives.   Do not vote for them.

So few elected (or appointed) officials qualify today as people who deal in real facts.  That is why I have generally not voted “for” anyone in decades.  I generally vote instead only for the lesser of the evils available,  and evil they usually are,  because of the money that buys elections.  The common man cannot afford to run for office in our USA.  That has been true for about 200 years now,  and it desperately needs to be changed. 

If in doubt,  I vote “no” or “against”.  That policy has served me well.  

Update:  Specifics for Election Year 2016

Donald J. TrumpNO!!!!  Here’s why:  complete denial of facts on every issue listed above,  which means he is completely unqualified to be making decisions affecting the entire country.  His shifting and extreme positions are designed to create buzz,  not solutions.  Putin likes the idea of President Trump,  because it would be easy to push a publicity-hound clown around,  and with him,  the entire country.   Trump is unstable and extremist enough that I absolutely do not want his finger on the nuclear button!

Update 2-25-16:  nothing but a power-hungry demagogue who tells lies about others,  provides a group to blame for our troubles,  provides platitudes-not-plans when he speaks;  as a result,  he reminds me of no one so much as Adolf Hitler running for office in early 1930's Germany.   We do NOT meed to repeat that history!  

Update 3-16-16:  the violence of Trump supporters suppressing opposition at his rallies is chillingly reminiscent of Hitler and his SA "brown shirts" at rallies in Germany in the late 1920's and early 1930's,  and also of Mussolini's fascisti "black shirts" in the 1920's.  

Ted CruzNO!!!!  Here’s why:  the not-Trump choice for the GOP is really just a Trump “mini-me”.  He has exactly the same problems with denial of facts and with extremist nonsense to create buzz,  not solutions.  Therefore,  he is similarly not qualified to be making decisions for the entire country.  He’s a tea party favorite (infamous for their “my way or the highway” approach to things that prevents effective governance),  and would govern for party advantage at the expense of the people (a real evil bordering upon treason during wartime).   He has already demonstrated this by orchestrating the government shutdown.  He is far too extremist to have his finger on the nuclear button. 

Update 2-25-16:  nothing but a power-hungry demagogue who tells lies about others,  provides a group to blame for our troubles,  provides platitudes-not-plans when he speaks;  otherwise identical to Trump in every other way,  which is why I call him a Trump "mini-me".  The same comparison to 1930-vintage Hitler applies.  Just as with Trump,  we do NOT need to repeat that history!

Marco Rubio – He might be acceptable as long he does not have a party majority in both houses of Congress to support him.  His approaches to many issues seem reasoned and reasonable.  But he’s awfully young:  I’d like to see him serve another term in the Senate before attempting the Presidency.   That is the problem we already just had with Obama (who also should have gained more experience in the Senate before becoming President).   I don’t know enough about him to trust that he will govern for the benefit of all,  and not just govern for party advantage at the expense of the people,  which is why I don’t want his party in control of both houses if he were President. 

Update 3-16-16:  it would appear that other folks noticed the same young/inexperienced factor that I called out in the preceding paragraph.  He did not win his home state,  and pulled out.  

Jeb Bush – Seems to be similar in many ways to Rubio,  plus he has real experience at governing that Rubio does not have.  I know enough about him to think that he would try to govern for the benefit of all,  and not just for party advantage,  but only so long as he surrounds himself with a diversity of advisors.  His brother (Bush 43) already made that mistake:  surrounded by nothing but neocons who wanted to wage war for oil,  that’s what “W” did.  Jeb is not “W”,  but the same risk is still there.  So I’d rather not see him supported by a party majority in both houses of Congress,  should he be elected.  Update 2-25-16:  now out of the running unless drafted at the convention.  

Chris Christie – This one may be the best the Republicans have to offer,  by far.  He has experience governing,  he has the backbone to be forceful in foreign affairs,  and he has the wisdom to set aside party considerations and govern for the benefit of all (demonstrated during Hurricane Sandy).  I suspect he would make an acceptable president regardless of who controls Congress.   He might even be a good one.  I do hope the Republicans avoid the Trump vs “not-Trump” Cruz choice at their convention,  by drafting Christie.  Update 2-25-16:  now out of the running unless drafted at the convention.  Update 2-29-16:  has backed Trump,  which I find disappointing (but not at all surprising,  after how his own party has treated him,  following the Hurricane Sandy ordeal).  

Update 3-16-16:  The only remaining non-extremist candidate among the Republicans is Kasich of Ohio.  I hope his win in Ohio forces the GOP to a brokered convention fight and results in an acceptable candidate in November.  Otherwise,  it doesn't matter who the Democrats run,  whoever it is gets my vote to avoid a Hitleresque extremist takeover of the White House.  We are in danger!

Hillary Clinton – She certainly has the experience in governance,  and she certainly has the backbone to deal with foreign affairs.  But she is demonstrably afflicted with a bad case of “shyster-lawyer” attitude:  (1) a predilection for lying,  and (2) a disregard for the rules.  This shows up as low rating for trust in the polls.  She was the brains and ambition behind Bill,  but does not have Bill’s grasp of doing right by the people (a sort of “noblesse oblige”).  I think she would not go off “half-cocked” on the nuclear button.  She might be acceptable as President,  but the shyster-lawyer effect will cause her to have scandal after scandal,  just as it always has since Bill was President.  So there are very definite and serious pluses and minuses with her. 

Bernie Sanders – I don’t yet know a lot about him.  He seems quite personable and reasonable,  just to hear him talk.  A self-described “democratic socialist”,  I’m not at all sure he is as far-left as he seems to many.  He’s probably only “left-center” for the New England region he comes from.  He does have experience in government,  and is demonstrably independent-of-party enough to trust that he would try to govern for the benefit of all of us.  Might actually be an acceptable President.  I think he would be trustable with the nuclear button. 

Update 2-25-16:  the more I hear him speak,  the better he sounds. I just wish he had not tarred himself with the self-description "socialist democrat".  Nowhere near as crazy as Trump or Cruz.  Does not carry all the scandal baggage that Hillary Clinton brings.  

Republican Agenda – as a broad-brush generalization:  tax breaks that almost exclusively favor the rich,  justified by “trickle-down economics” (something tried since Reagan and it has never,  ever worked).  These tax breaks are a reward for campaign contributions from those same rich entities.  The Republicans talk a lot about reducing the size and expense of government,  but never actually do it.  They do tend to be stronger and more forceful as regards foreign affairs,  although this sometimes gets us into deep trouble (example:  recent neocon wars for oil in the middle east under Bush 43). 

Problem:  the Republican party is tearing itself apart without actually splitting.  The extremist right wing coalition (of tea party political extremists and extremist Christians) has the party hog-tied into a turn to the extreme right,  without actually being a majority within the party.  If the split were actually to happen,  neither group would have the following to be a factor in national politics,  which is precisely why they have not yet split.  Eventually,  they will,  or else the Republicans will eventually fade from national significance.  Most Americans have a distaste for extremism. 

Most of their social agenda (top issues:  overturning abortion and Obamacare) I vehemently disagree with:  I think Roe vs Wade better represents the majority of Americans,  and I have seen no concrete proposals to replace Obamacare.  They do support Second Amendment gun rights,  which I agree with. 

Update 2-25-16:  I can certainly see the influence that the tea party/ extremist fundamentalist Christian base is having:  all the GOP candidates running locally here in central Texas are going out of their way to out-Trump Trump.  All I see in their ad campaigns is "blame the illegal immigrants for everything" nonsense,  coupled with defund Planned Parenthood and repeal Roe vs Wade nonsense.  Sounds almost exactly like 1932 Germany.  

Democrat Agenda – I pretty much agree with their social agenda,  excepting increased gun control,  which I utterly abhor.  The party tends to adopt measures immediately,  with the promise to figure out how to fund it later,  which they never do (neither do the Republicans).  They do tend to believe in a larger,  more-activist government,  and the more left-leaning members are more willing to experiment with social engineering,  something I don’t think wise.  (Actually,  the far-right Republicans also want to experiment with social engineering,  just different in the details,  but just as unwise.) 

Update 2-25-16:  the Democrats are very definitely the lesser of two evils,  pretty much at all levels from local to national.  I hate to say that,  but I will NOT vote for a bunch of Hitler clones.  

My own take on this is mixed:  there are things that only government can do,  and there are things that are better-supplied by our free market business communities.  Wisdom lies in knowing which is which,  a decision that should be objective and not political.  Government exists to provide those necessary things that business either cannot or will not supply.  Both parties have very serious failings regarding this.  The Democrats create more government offices and programs,  but (just like the Republicans) never act to eliminate them,  once they are no longer useful. 

The Democrats are stereotyped as “soft” on foreign affairs,  although FDR,  Harry Truman,  JFK,  LBJ,  and Barack Obama are all “exceptions”,  in my opinion.   (I include Obama because he has killed more people with drone attacks than George W. Bush ever even thought about.)  I really think this is more determined by individual personalities than it is by any sort of party agenda. 

I don’t like the way the Democrats (under LBJ) took the social security trust fund and made it part of the federal government general fund.  This is in large part why the social security program is now perceived as going broke.  This was done for political expedience,  and is only one example (among many) of why I think prioritizing party advantage above the good of all the people is tantamount to treason.

My hopes

I am not classifiable as either Republican or Democrat.  I am a “dyed-in-the-wool” independent.  I am an American,  first and foremost.  You might as well know that,  if you have not yet guessed. 

I hope the Democrats draft Joe Biden at their convention as the “not-Hillary” candidate who could actually win the election.  He is a decent,  thoughtful man,  with lots of direct relevant experience in government.  He could be a good President,  perhaps even a great one,  occasional “foot-in-mouth disease” notwithstanding.  He can be trusted with the nuclear button.  I think he can be trusted to prioritize serving all the people above party advantage.  Update 3-3-16:  if they drafted Sanders,  I'd be OK with that.  

I hope the Republicans draft Chris Christie at their convention as the (1) not-Trump,  and (2) not Trump‘s “mini-me” (meaning Cruz) candidate.  Christie could actually win the election.  As described above,  I think he could be a good President.  Essentially,  these are the same reasons that underlie my opinion of Biden.  Update 3-3-16:  unfortunately,  he has become a symbol of scorn as "Trump's hostage".  I was disappointed in him for endorsing Trump.  His political credibility has pretty much now zeroed because of that.  

I don’t know anything about any of the other candidates not named above.  Accordingly,  my rule-of-thumb would be vote “against”.  I’m sorry if that offends,  but my policy of voting “no” or “against” when I don’t know,  has served me well for a very long time now. 

Best-case scenario:  the election is Biden versus Christie.  Either could serve well,  regardless of who controls the houses of Congress.  I would hope that both men have the wisdom to include the other man as a major figure in his government,  whichever man wins.  Nothing could be more healing of the division among Americans,  both symbolically,  and in a very real-and-practical sense. 

Worst-case scenario:  the election is Trump versus Hillary.  I’d have to vote for Hillary as the lesser of two considerable evils.  I think I can trust her finger on the nuclear button.  Trump,  I do not trust at all,  with the nuclear button. 

Probable Scenario:  Trump (high) or Cruz (low) versus Hillary Clinton.  Frankly,  I'd vote against either Trump or Cruz no matter who the Democrats run!  We simply cannot afford to have the White House taken over by an extremist,  with his finger on the nuclear button.  I hope that Clinton has the wisdom to include Sanders in her proposed government.  Especially if he was her running mate,  I think the Dems would stomp a GOP-extremist in November,  thus saving us from a clone of the Third Reich right here in America.  

Update 2-9-16:  I see no reason to change any of these evaluations.  

Update 2-25-16:  see dated red text inserted above,  in multiple locations.  

Update 2-29-16:  see dated blue text inserted above,  in one location.

Update 3-3-16:  see purple text inserted two places above.  

Update 3-16-16:  see orange text inserted four places above.

Update 6-8-16:  It will be Clinton vs Trump.  Trump is simply unacceptable,  to almost anyone of  remotely-decent common sense,  including an awful lot of Republicans.  Clinton,  in spite of her historic low approval ratings,  is definitely the lesser of two evils.  

The Democrats could ensure that they win by a landslide in November,  if they run Sanders as Clinton's VP candidate.  He would tend to keep her more honest if he were a major part of her government.  A lot of people have a "gut feel" that would agree.  And he would be there to represent the wishes of those who supported him.  

It's a winning ticket (Clinton + Sanders vs Trump + whoever).  I hope the Democrats are wise enough to recognize that during their convention (Update 8-13-16 -- they were not,  but they were wise enough to include a lot of Sanders' issues as their platform).  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"White Trash Christmas" 2015

This is the Christmas 2015 version of what has become our traditional Christmas yard display at the Johnson household.  We call it "White Trash Christmas".

The tree is something I built for the City of McGregor some years ago,  something I call the "Iron Christmas Tree".   The city doesn't use it anymore,  so we do.  It erects easily,  but knocks down to store in a very small space.  I made it out of rebar and all-thread rod,  plus some odds and ends for fittings.

The Santa-and-reindeer paraody is a cheap plastic Santa with a light inside,  using a wheelbarrow as his sleigh,  and a garbage bag in an old steel trash can as his bag of toys.  The reindeer team is a set of plastic lawn flamingoes with pipe-cleaner "antlers",  all lit up internally,  and all "hitched" to the "sleigh" with yellow caution tape.

You'll notice there are 10 flamingoes,  not eight.  The lone leader is "Rudolph",  followed by four pairs for eight,  all named as in the poem,  and a lone follower named "Bambi".  I haven't figured out yet how to give "Rudolph" a glowing red nose (beak).

This display has been our yard decoration since about 1997 or 1998.  It has taken multiple forms over the years,  but this seems to be the funniest.  I hope you like it as well as we do.