Saturday, February 18, 2017

Keeping it simple

The other day, I saw in a comment thread someone mention the following quote:

“The world always makes sense.  If something doesn't make sense, you don't have enough information. “

I did a quick search and couldn’t find who the author might have been.  But this comment brings to mind something that doesn’t make sense to me.

Yesterday, DT & Co. made a comment that the American Media is the “Enemy of the American People”.  Bill Maher made a video wherein he lamented over the nonsensical fact that the GOP, the Party of Patriotism, once the Defender of America, has flipped into the Party of Critics of America, who now support our once arch nemesis, Russia.  And all without so much as a mention or a bit of regret or so much as a facial tic.

DT & Co.’s remark is a slap in the face of the Constitution and one of the most important rights enshrined in that document - so important it was placed into the First Amendment alongside the guarantees of religious freedom and the freedom to petition the government and the right to gather with like minded people - the guarantee of a free press.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  

There it is, right there.  Enshrined in the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, a document supposedly sacred to the Right Wing and Republicans.  Yet, when DT & Co. denigrate the press, calling it the Enemy of the American People, do we hear a peep?  A gasp?  Something of a facial tic?  Nope. Nothing, nada, nichts, not even the slightest of peeps.

None of this makes sense.  

Here we have a man whose entire life is a stain on the American business world, whose tactics are the epitome of capitalist greed that sparked the 19th century limitations on the worst of those peoples’ practices, such as the laws against monopolies, who both woos the press on one hand yet calls them Enemy of the American People on the other.  A man whose personal life has been a prime example of the evil that christianity and Jesus’ teachings have railed against for centuries.

And yet both the GOP, as the party of the Defense of the Constitution, has voted for and backed this man fully, even as he begins the process of dismantling the democracy the Republicans have supposedly devoted its life to protecting, and a huge percentage of Evangelicals - those devotees of Christ - not only voted for, but still enthusiastically support and defend.  In spite of his flagrant violation of the values Christ supposedly preached, thus destroying Evangelical credibility in moral issues.


Yet, why?  What makes that support for Trump worth it?  Worth in fact, condoning violations of the Constitution either group would have condemned outright not two years ago.  There may be some answers, and none of it will make you feel good.

John Podesta, Hilary Clinton’s chief of staff, said this today:

“Trump is deploying a strategy, used by autocrats, designed to completely disorient public perception,” Podesta wrote. “He’s not just trying to spin the bad news of the day; all politicians do that. He seeks nothing less than to undermine the public’s belief that any news can be trusted, that any news is true, that there is any fixed reality.” 
Podesta compared Trump’s aggressive stance toward the media to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the autocratic strongman whose government U.S. intelligence officials believe ordered the hack into Podesta’s email account during the campaign. 
“He is emulating the successful strategy of Vladimir Putin,” Podesta wrote, cautioning that Trump’s behavior puts the U.S. “in danger of experiencing an information void like Russia,” where people are so cynical that they “hear something on TV and assume it’s a lie.”

In the op-ed, Podesta urged Americans to “maintain a heightened vigilance” and be wary of things they read on social media, but also “be wary of any effort, particularly from the White House, to disorient or discredit reliable information.”

Journalists, in turn, must continue to fact-check the White House, he wrote.”

Trump has been accused of mental illness, as well as being incompetent.  This view makes the assumption that he is neither, but is working a plan.

Does the Republican party have a plan?

I don’t think so, but somebody else does.  Back on November 18th, I posted an article entitled “Once more into the breech!” in which I first noted this idea that our true enemy is the Corporatists, who are members of the 1% engaged in a long term conspiracy to turn this country into an Oligarchy.  One of the techniques in getting there is exactly what Trump is engaging in, according to Podesta.

Remember the first rule in examining something and looking for an answer:  the KISS Principle, also expressed as Occam's razor.  No need for long, complicated conspiracies, or convoluted multi-level plans.  The simplest is most likely to work, hence is more likely to be the best explanation.  The more complexity, the more likely points of failure there are.

In this atmosphere today, when the Chief Executive is doing his best to confuse, confound and create chaos, it is perfectly normal to be exactly that - its’ the intent, after all!   That;’s why we need to be alert, be aware, and on the lookout for clues to what makes all this make sense.

In the meantime, keep your other eye on the ball - the corporatist ball!

Once we have enough information, it’ll make sense.

Monday, February 13, 2017

All we have to fear is fear itself.

There are a lot of alarming things coming out of the White House this month. It is particularly alarming that this will go on the another 200+ weeks!
But today my focus is on fear.
There once was a time when Americans were born and bred into a form of national bravery. Bravery in some fashion was almost a national religion. We admired frontiersmen/women for their bravery in setting out to explore the unknown, we admired our military for their bravery in facing our enemies, and we built a national image of ourselves based on that admiration.
We faced down adversaries who were bigger than ourselves, who had bigger militaries and stronger national presences abroad. We invoked the Monroe Doctrine, which dared the much stronger and older European powers to face our ire if they meddled in the Western Hemisphere, and we did it at a time when we were not exactly a match for any of them.
We fought in WWI, sending our bravest into a war which literally changed the face of the world.
We used our tremendous industrial base, secure from foreign invasion by two immense oceans, as a powerhouse to allow us to fight and WIN against two opposing coalitions on the opposite sides of the globe, mobilizing the entire population to do so.
"Home of the Brave". That's what our national anthem calls it, this United States of America. We have made a national icon out of this.
We bolster our courage every 4th of July by parading this picture of ourselves through our streets and across our computer screens, patting ourselves on the backs for facing down our enemies.
Not any more.
For over thirty years, especially since the Reagan years, the Republican Party has capitalized on our fears. Fear of Big Government, fear of the different, fear of this, fear of that. Fear of anybody whose culture we don't understand.
Their constant mantra has been to stir fear about anything they could imagine that might in some way, change our country, or make something different happen. It is all touted as dangers to America, and threats to our Democracy, to The American Way of Life. Brown people, black people, yellow people, people with long hair, people who dress different. People who (gasp!) speak a different language! (GOD forbid we should have to select English with a tap of a button...)
We spend more money, combined, than the next 7 highest spending countries on our military (including both Russia and China), and we brag about having the largest and strongest military in the world. We imagine that we are still capable of taking on two wars at once. We have seven aircraft carriers to project American power anywhere in the world in mere days, if not a week or so.
Our machinations around the world have resulted in our development and establishment of hundreds of military bases around the world, which we can use to project our air power and often, special forces power, just about anywhere we need to.
Those machinations have changed history.
...and yet, fear.
The Republican Party has managed to turn us into a nation of fearful little mice, scurrying to hide behind any convenient excuse - a wall, a blanket ban, an ocean or two, anything to protect ourselves from these foreign horrors. We hold our military in front of us, like a shield, anytime we feel challenged (which is almost constantly) in our Supreme Position of the Defenders of Pax Americana. We shake those sabers at those who frighten us, and at those who even seem to be thinking about challenging our Supremacy.
What, what has become of the Home of the Brave? Land of the Free?
What has allowed us to let this happen to us? Why are we afraid? Our parents weren't afraid. Neither were our grandparents.
Why us, why now?
Why do we let nasty little men cower behind the White House doors and under the Capitol dome and pronounce unAmerican edicts and orders that violate the very values and principles that this country was founded on?
Is this OUR country, or are we going to let these nasty little men undercut everything we stand for?
We should be standing tall, beside each other, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, opposing all who would undermine our democracy. All who would violate the principles of democracy and fairness.
Those who bring fascism to our shores. Those who wrap themselves in the flag and lift up that cross in an effort to DESTROY the freedoms that really made this country great.
That cross didn't make this country great. Neither did the flag.
The PEOPLE did. People from virtually every ethnic group on the planet. People from every corner of the globe, almost literally. 
Immigrants. We are a nation of immigrants. If we allow these nasty little men to dictate to us who can come and who can go based on their nasty little prejudices and hatreds, we disgrace the memory of every person of every ethnic group who died to make this country what it is today. We disgrace the work and the blood, sweat and tears of the entire lives' work that went into what we have today.
Let's not let that happen.
Shed your fear.
Stand up. Face down the tyrants, those nasty little men.
Let's show them what real Americans are made of.

What a government is all about, including what public employees do and think.

This post was first posted a couple of days ago on my personal Facebook page.  At this writing, it has been shared 21 times, which I am honored to see.  I thought since Ophelia Benson had shared this also on her blog Butterflies and Wheels, I should probably put it up on mine, too!  (Thanks, Ophelia!  I appreciate it!)

So, (hopefully) enjoy.

A remark made on one of my posts, last night I think it was, caused me to stop and think about what your average American knows about being a government employee.
To start out, for those who don't know me or haven't checked my profile yet, I was a Federal employee for 42 years and 4 months. I served the US Army for four years, and the Food and Drug Administration the rest of the time, starting out as a mail & file clerk and ending up as a senior IT tech overseeing a group of contractors who kept the FDA desktops updated and secure.
Along the way, I worked with scientists, lab people, investigators, inspectors, medical personnel, lawyers, contracting officers, instructors, administrators, and in one capacity or another, others from almost every Center in FDA.
Many of those people had worked in other major Departments, including a supervisor who had once worked for the Justice Department, and a Branch chief whose former intelligence agency employer was so classified, he still was prevented by law from disclosing that to us.
As many of you know from the private sector, each organization, private or public, has its own culture. Much of that culture comes from the top down and is informed by its mission - what it does as a primary function.
But governments, whether local, State or Federal, are different than private companies, large or small.
Why? Because governments don't exist to make a profit.
Private companies do. That is the very reason they exist! If they cannot make a profit, eventually, they are forced to close and have their assets sold off to satisfy their debts.
Governments don't go bankrupt. At the worst, they have their credit ratings cut to nothing, forcing them to "live" and operate from cash receipts obtained through statutory incomes, like taxes or receipts from licensing activities, fines, etc.
Their mission is to provide for the safety, welfare, public peace and security of the American people.
That's a whole lot different from making filthy lucre to fill the bosses' pockets. That's why they operate differently, and that's why Republicans are wrong to try and make the US Government run like a business.
Because it isn't one.
That's why the culture of each governmental Department is different, and why each has its own take on transparency.
Yeah, Transparency. Believe me, that's a tightrope each and every supervisor in the government has to weigh on a regular basis.
Some agencies, by their mission's demands, cannot be transparent. Intelligence agencies are a good example. We cannot allow foreign governments to know if, when, or how we may or may not be spying on them. We want them to be guessing, constantly, and we want them to guess wrong, every time.
Others, like the military, have inherent activities and equipment that by their nature, need to be secret. Otherwise, their effectiveness in combat is greatly lessened. Enemies who have to guess about what you may bring to the table in a conflict will be cautious and very careful before committing themselves.
Civilian agencies which are by nature enforcing various Federal laws are bound to be secretive in some ways for two reasons: First, they are bound by law to protect proprietary information belonging to the companies they need to inspect as part of that law enforcement activity. Second, they don't want their enforcement activities to be publicly revealed, because sometimes a surprise inspection is what you need to catch someone who is willfully violating the law. Give them a chance to clean up, and you've got nothing for your efforts!
But other agencies have a tougher row to hoe regarding that word transparency. They have to balance letting the public know how they are operating in making policy vs. allowing either political opponents or foreign opponents know secrets that may allow them to counter those policies in ways harmful to the public.
Sometimes, getting that balance right is hard.
One of the things that turned me aside from being a republican early in my government career was their constant ragging on us for being lazy, or corrupt, or leaches sucking at the "government teat".
I've known hundreds if not thousands of people in my career, and with the exception of one or two, not a damn one of them was lazy, or corrupt or anything approaching the description of a leach. They all worked hard for their paychecks. Many of them could have gone outside and gotten much bigger paychecks working for large corporations.
But they stayed, most of them, and they do because they CARE. The mission of the FDA is, among other things similar, to keep your food, your drugs, your cosmetics, your radiation emitting devices, your medical devices, safe, effective and the best American companies can make them to be. Every single FDA employee I've worked with cared about that single mission, cared about how their job, whether it was leading a Center, running a computer, or inspecting Mexican produce crossing the border, and how their job impacted the primary mission of the Agency.
I cannot imagine anyone in any other governmental agency feeling any less, whether they are working for the Federal government or a State or local government.
So, folks, when you hear the Republicans continuing to belittle public employees, whether they are US Park Service Rangers, or EPA scientists, or federal Judges, remember this post. Remember that these people CARE - they care about you, me, and their neighbors. They are there, doing their jobs, probably making less money than they could on the outside, because they give a damn about OUR COUNTRY.
They each took an oath, which is very similar to the one Trump just took, to protect and defend the Constitution. Not an oath of loyalty to a President, or to an Agency, or to a boss. To the Constitution of the United States of America.
To serve YOU. That also includes Congress, by the way.
It's up to you to determine which of those public servants are upholding that oath.
And which are, very publicly, not.