Focus the resistance

President Donald Trump is getting a lot of resistance since he was inaugurated—maybe too much. Complaints about the president going to Mira Lago every weekend, the amount of taxes he paid, and his latest tweet turning the blame for something he did on his target du jour are all over the media. But in the big scheme of things, these are trivial issues that have little import to the typical American. The ubiquity of these inconsequential issues becomes noise that drowns out the critical issues that Americans should be resisting.

Even Trump’s signature Wall is not worth the Resistance. Net illegal immigration from Mexico has hovered around zero for the past few years, so little would change with a wall on the border. There would continue to be a strong legal interchange of people, products, and culture across the border. The Wall would not stop the twelve-million undocumented Mexicans already in the USA from continuing to be our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. Sure, it would be a waste of $20-billion, with all the more advanced technological solutions that could be deployed on the border, but that’s just a drop in the federal budget bucket.

Americans need to tamp down the noise and focus their resistance to the president’s agenda on the issues that are seriously detrimental to Americans. The most critical are his efforts to create a Trump autocracy. Muzzling the Fourth Estate and dictating what is legitimate press and what is fake news is the first step in implementing an autocracy. Trump’s constant distortion of the meaning of English words to fit his demagogic or authoritarian needs is an Orwellian page right out of 1984. His attempts to delegitimize the courts and claims that the president is immune to laws are tactics that would be taught in Autocracy 101.

It’s also important for Americans to see Trump’s tax returns. But it’s not so we can know how much taxes he paid. Any shrewd businessman will do their best to minimize their tax liability and they should not be criticized for doing so in a legal manner. We need to see his tax returns so we can learn how his personal finances could influence the actions he takes as president. What if Trump owes a Russian oligarch a large sum of money? What if he is trying to get permits to develop properties in China? What if he passes a law or removes a regulation that favors his companies in the USA? These are important things Americans can learn from Trump’s tax returns.

Americans need to resist Trump’s environmental agenda if they care about their children and grandchildren. The damage that would be caused if Trump is successful at rendering the Environmental Protection Agency impotent would be slow to notice but would endure for generations to come. Many Americans have forgotten or are too young to know that the skies of Los Angeles used to be so smoggy that you could rarely see the Hollywood Sign from the Hollywood Freeway and our waterways used to be so polluted that the Cuyahoga River in Ohio literally caught on fire. But Trump will reverse the gains we’ve made cleaning up the environment in recent decades if he is unchecked. And the international community must begin combating Global Warming immediately to prevent irreversible damage to the entire planet but Trump’s denial of Climate Change will jeopardize the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Health care is another issue of significant importance to Americans because we pay more than any other advanced country for our health care but have some of the worst outcomes. Both Democrat and Republican presidents tried for decades to reform health care for Americans. None of their efforts were successful until President Obama passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PDF) (ACA). The ACA is not perfect but it’s much preferable to the system we had before the law was passed. Yet the GOP is intent on repealing it and replacing it with a bill that would result in over twenty-million Americans losing their health care insurance and the costs rising even more dramatically—especially for seniors and Americans with disabilities or other pre-existing conditions.

There are other important issues that Americans face with Trump in the Oval Office and Americans need to resist all of the most harmful ones. But most of the criticisms levied against him in the media are relatively trivial compared to these. In fact, it might be a deliberate tactic on Trump’s part to get Americans talking about his tweets to distract them from things like his connections to Russia. Don’t let him get away with it. Stop posting every trivial criticism of his administration on facebook and focus your resistance on the issues that really matter.

Not my president — NOT

I have been a vocal critic of Donald Trump since he began his campaign for president. Against all odds, he somehow managed to win the election and is now the president-elect. Nonetheless, many of my fellow Trump opponents assert that he is “not my president,” not only meaning now while President Obama is still in office but also after Trump’s inauguration in two weeks.

I don’t share this sentiment. Yes, I know that Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by around three-million votes but that’s irrelevant. The US Constitution says that our president is elected by electors, not the American electorate, and the Electoral College has certified Trump’s win. So there’s no denying that Trump will be sworn in to the office of POTUS and I am a citizen of the USA.

Therefore, although I don’t have to like it, I acknowledge that he will be my president. I think that those of the not-my-president camp should also acknowledge it and here’s why. If Trump were not my president, then I would not care about him. I could put him out of my mind and focus on other issues. But I’ve already expressed why it will be so dangerous to our country for him to be the president.

This danger is real enough that Americans should not hide their heads in the sand and deny his position. We need to stand up to him and fight to protect our civil rights. Acknowledging that Trump is our president is the first step to being committed to the struggle. It is the very fact that he will be our president that makes the fight so important. And it won’t be just one battle. This will be a war that will likely stretch on for four years, with at least two of them having a majority of the legislature backing Trump (for the most part).

So drop the “not my president” line and take up arms against our president-elect with me. I don’t mean physical weapons; I mean political weapons. Arm yourself with the facts about what Trump will be doing as president. Speak out loudly about what he does and why it’s wrong before he begins muzzling our free speech. Vote for legislators in the midterm election who will join us in the fight against our president. Don’t let to-be-President Trump’s fact-free zone drown out our fight.

I can understand why some people are tired of how PC the society in general has gotten but not why they would want a president who is so politically incorrect. There’s a reason why the word “political” is used in the term “politically correct” — because politicians should be held to a higher level of decorum than the population at large is. A president’s words have a much larger impact than yours or mine do.

This is Trump. This is your country on Trump. Any questions?

It’s final—Donald Trump will become the president of the United States of America in a couple of months. So it’s now relevant to contemplate what the USA will be like under his administration. First off, it’s clear that he will not enter the Oval Office with a mandate of the American people. While Trump is sure to be elected by a strong majority of the Electoral College next month, Hillary Clinton will probably win the popular vote for president. Trump will lead a country in which a majority of American voters do not want him to be their president.

He will also have to forge foreign relations in a world where he is very unpopular. While it is not a globally unanimous sentiment, Europe hates Trump and according to Pew Research, much of the world has no confidence that Trump will do the right thing regarding world affairs. So it’s likely that all of the wounds that President Obama has healed in international relations with the USA after President Bush so badly damaged them will be reopened if you trust Trump’s words.

But neither foreigners nor Americans who have been paying attention to Trump will be able to trust the president’s word after he takes office. I’ve already written about how much of a liar Trump is. I realize that everyone lies, including Hillary Clinton, so it’s not that he lies that bothers me. It’s the extraordinary scale of his lying that concerns me. FactCheck.org dubbed Trump the “King of Whoppers” and PolitiFact awarded Trump’s campaign misstatements “Lie of the Year” in 2015. He even lies about his lies by switching his positions on issues from one side to the opposite and back at a dumbfounding rate and regularity. That’s why the world feels so much uncertainty about Trump’s presidency and Americans will be unable to rely on anything he will say as president.

In terms of the homeland itself, your country on Trump will be wet…and dry. Miami won’t be flooded by the Pacific Ocean during his administration but Trump has pledged to cancel last year’s Paris Climate Change accord and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s a miracle that the world could reach an agreement that 193 countries would sign on to, so it’s likely to unravel with the world’s second leading emitter of carbon dioxide leaving the accord. That means you can expect Global Warming to continue and the seas to rise over the USA’s coastal cities after Trump has done his damage and left the White House. And without an EPA, Flint, Michigan won’t be the only place where you won’t be able to drink the water.

Americans will also have less access to health care on Trump. I continue to be a critic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but it’s preferable to no Obamacare at all. I know Trump has promised to replace the ACA after he repeals it but he has told you nothing about what he would replace it with. And it’s completely unrealistic to think that your Republican-dominated congress will pass any health care reform law, so you will be back to the way things were before the ACA: more than 15-million Americans who gained health insurance under the ACA will again have to go without it while the cost for health care will return to its pre-ACA levels of skyrocketing increases.

On Trump, ethnic relations among Americans will be rent to pieces. Between calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and countless other xenophobic comments, Trump has made America hate again. Because Trump is setting an example that it is acceptable, many Americans will be more willing to publicly express racism and prejudice of people who don’t look or act like a WASP. And the American targets of that bigotry will suffer from it and fear showing their diversity in public, thereby creating divides between “us” and “them” in whatever forms we and they take.

But perhaps the greatest damage the USA will sustain on Trump is the erosion of your freedoms and civil rights. Trump has repeatedly exhibited extensive disregard for the USA’s constitution. And by calling for “taking out” (he did not mean on a date) the families of members of ISIS and torturing terrorists with waterboarding, he has shown that he’s also willing to commit international war crimes. Trump threatened to throw Hillary Clinton in jail, if he were president, for charges that FBI director James Comey said “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring and has called for new libel laws to quash any journalists who publicly disagree with him. These are the actions dictators, including King George III of England, have historically taken to suppress any political opposition and wrest power from their people in totalitarian states.

The harmful side effects of Trump are many and I could go on at much more length about what your country will be like on Trump. But if, after fifteen months of Trump’s campaigning, you still support him, you already know everything about him that will damage your country but have chosen not to acknowledge it. It won’t change your denial to read about it here. And everyone else already knows the repercussions of the USA being on Trump. So I’ve said my peace and I’ll leave the next four years on Trump to history. Any questions?

We are not the enemy

It’s a sad reflection on Americans to see what our political discourse has devolved into. If you review my political posts, you’ll see that I am careful to keep them fact-based and don’t resort to personal insults. I do this because I can have a substantive, reasoned discussion about politics when it’s based on facts and devoid of fallacy. But I also disagree with others’ politics in a respectful manner and avoid publishing commentary that is emotionally driven and hostile so that I don’t make enemies simply by exercising my freedom of speech.

In spite of my diplomacy when discussing politics, what do I get in return? Vitriol and ad hominem attacks—and this from people who don’t know me from Adam and often make false assumptions about my politics. For example, I voice a lot of criticism of Donald Trump and some people mistakenly assume that means I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter. As expected, Trump supporters respond to me as if I’m their enemy. Just this morning, someone I never met called me an “idiot” for simply stating a fact that did not resonate with her preconceived narrative about Trump’s virtues.

But I’m far from the only one being attacked personally for voicing a political position and it happens on both sides of the spectrum. Trump opponents often make derogatory comments about his followers, calling them racist and worse, even though they don’t even know the individuals they denigrate. Even Clinton said, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it.” You’re right, Secretary Clinton, that is gross.

Americans are segregating themselves into tribes and, now more than ever, demonizing any American that doesn’t share their ideology. They feel as if it’s “us against them.” Although many of these fellow Americans are their neighbors and family, they see them as enemies if they’re not part of their tribe.

Social media is only exacerbating this effect. People say things online to their fellow Americans that they would never utter if they ran into that same stranger face-to-face on the street. I often feel like I need to take a shower after reading some threads of political commentary on facebook posts, YouTube videos, and tweets. All sense of common decency and empathy for fellow Americans is thrown out the window in these media.

But the truth is that we are all Americans and we are far more alike than we are different. We all love our family and (real) friends and just want to live in peace and prosperity. We all feel blessed that we live in a country that, despite all its follies and foibles, is far preferable to living just about anywhere else on this planet. And we all need to respect each other’s personal opinions and positions, especially those with whom we disagree politically, if we are to retain this sound democratic foundation that America is built upon. In the words of Rodney King, “can we all get along?”

Bernie Sanders is not the revolutionary

I understand how you feel, Bernie Bro; I voted for Bernie Sanders too. Like Bernie actually is, I too am an independent but I voted the Democrat ballot in California’s primary election. I felt the Bern and I want to see a political revolution in this country as much as he and you do. So like you, I was disappointed when Bernie lost the Democrat nomination.

Cover of The Beatles' Revolution albumBut if Bernie were the next president, it would not guaranty that the political revolution he campaigned about would happen. And the political revolution can still happen, no matter who the next president is. Because Bernie is not the revolutionary—we are.

That’s right—none of Bernie’s platforms can be implemented without the legislature. And even if Bernie were in the Oval Office, he would not be able to sign any of his platforms into law unless the legislature was to first pass a bill that legislates one of his platforms. We the people have much more sway over our congress than any president ever could.

How do you affect your legislators? You write to them and tell them how you feel about the issues. It’s easy to do. You can message them through a form on the senators’ and representatives’ web sites. There’s a search tool to help you find your own representative or a committee. Unfortunately, as easy as it is, few constituents ever contact their congressman. A political revolution means that we all need to do this regularly. If everyone who felt the Bern did this, congress would be deluged by many millions of messages echoing the positions that Bernie took and that resonated so strongly with you.

Some of you have conservative congressmen. That means you also need to tell them that, if they vote contrary to the position you are asking them to take, you will vote for someone more like Bernie when they are up for reelection. And then you actually need to do so. That threat might not impress your congressmen if they only get a few of them but, if millions of constituents threaten to vote them out of office, they will pay attention. Over ninety percent of incumbent congressmen get reelected. There are not nearly that many of them supporting or opposing legislation the way their constituency wants them to. What incentive is there for them to do what their constituents ask if they will reelect them anyway?

Finally, a political revolutionary needs to be informed accurately on the issues. You cannot effectively write to your congressmen and vote for them if you are ignorant about politics. The three sources you should not use to inform yourself are Internet memes, TV commercials, and Fox News. All three sources are notorious for providing information that is false as frequently as it is truthful. Get your political news from multiple sources, including ones that favor the Left and ones that favor the Right, so you get a well rounded perspective on politics. Visit the Library of Congress legislative repository to read the actual bills, see their current status and, if they’ve been brought to the floor, how your congressman voted. Both FactCheck.org and PolitiFact are great tools to separate the lies from the truth. It is surprisingly easy to get detailed information about congress but you must be discerning to identify the bullshit.

You can start a political revolution even though Bernie will not be president. But it’s important to vote for the presidential candidate who would be most likely to sign Bernie’s platforms into law—and has a possibility of being elected. If your political revolution is successful at getting the legislation you want through congress, you don’t want it to just get vetoed in the Oval Office. Sitting out the presidential election because Bernie Sanders was not nominated as the Democrat candidate will not start the revolution he called for. And electing a megalomaniacal autocrat will stop it cold.

Defining Donald Trump

The surprising success of Donald J. Trump’s primary campaign shows that he is unquestionably appealing to millions of Americans. This made me curious as to what about him is appealing to them. I started my analysis by describing Trump to see which of his characteristics are the most appealing. So I thought of all the words I could come up with that describe him.

Donald Trump is a narcissist, a racist, a megalomaniac, a demagogue, an oligarch, an egomaniac, and a sociopathic liar. He’s bombastic, arrogant, delusional, embarrassing, habitually litigious, and politically inconsistent.

At first glance, it might seem that this is not a serious description of Trump but is simply just a caricature. After all, how could a real person actually exhibit all of these traits? So I hyperlinked each one to the word’s definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. If you follow the links and read the definitions, you’ll see that they literally define Trump—without exaggeration, every one of them!

So what then is the appeal of this kind of a man? It turns out that many Americans do not so much support Trump as they oppose Hillary Clinton. The biggest criticism of her is that she’s a liar and it’s not hard to make that case. This is an understandable reason to oppose Clinton but it’s a poor reason to support Trump.

When it comes to lying, Trump makes Clinton sound like George Washington admitting to chopping down the cherry tree. Trump lies so blatantly that he doesn’t even care that it’s obvious and simple to show his lies to be false. Even his supporters know that he was lying when he claimed that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were “cheering” the 9/11 attack. This is the man who stuck to his claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, even after the president released his long-form birth certificate to the public.

He lied so much that FactCheck.org dubbed Trump the “King of Whoppers” for 2015. Then they went on to cite a long list of lies he said over the course of the year and presented evidence that the statements were all false. PolitiFact put many of Trump’s statements through its Truth-O-Meter. It turns out that Trump made far more statements that were false at some level than he did statements that were at least partially true. Of PolitiFact’s six rulings of truthfulness (or lack thereof), only three percent of Trump’s statements were completely true—the fewest of all the categories.

Trump’s statements by ruling

Chart of Donald Trump's statements by ruling
Source: PolitiFact

After my analysis, I got a clear picture of what Donald Trump is really like. But I never found out what is so appealing about him. If you find him appealing, please make a comment below telling American voters why. If you think any of my characterizations does not apply to Trump, let me know which one and I’ll cite evidence that the definition is accurate in his case.

Keeping the right to bear arms real

In the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, we are certain to see another increase in arguments about gun control in the days to come. This is an important issue, so I welcome reasoned public discourse about it. But I do not like to see all the bullshit that is sure to accompany the arguments. I want to see this issue debated with valid grounds, not with fallacy.

Before I get into keeping it real, here is my position for the record:

  • I support Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms. I oppose the government taking Americans’ guns away.
  • That right has limitations, just as the First Amendment right to free speech does not permit “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater.”
  • If my hands were not paralyzed, I would probably buy a gun, get trained on its use, and practice those skills so I could use it safely.

That said, I don’t deny facts presented by those who support abolishing the Second Amendment. The one most commonly used is that the most effective way to reduce gun violence is to take Americans’ guns away from them. The evidence shows unequivocally that there is a direct positive correlation between the level of gun ownership in a given country and the incidence of gun violence. The following charts comprise just one piece in a mountain of evidence that supports this argument.

Charts showing per capita firearm possession and firearm homicides in major countries
Level of firearm ownership compared to incidence of firearm homicides

For Americans who value a reduction in gun violence and mass shootings (like the one that occurred yesterday) over their right to bear arms, it’s a valid argument. But gun rights advocates who rebut by saying that, if guns were outlawed, criminals would still get them and use them violently are being fallacious. Their words are factual but irrelevant to the argument. Although it would not eliminate gun violence altogether, it’s unequivocal that abolishing the Second Amendment would significantly reduce the incidence of mass shootings like the one in Orlando and other gun violence, even though some Americans would still have guns and use them violently. To deny that simply makes a person appear to lack the capacity for rational thought on the issue.

Those of us who support their right to bear arms should keep it real when we argue in favor of it. There’s no need to deny facts because the Second Amendment is clear and unqualified:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The Constitution does not qualify that right with a condition that it becomes void in the event that firearm homicides in the USA are much greater than in countries that limit gun ownership. Therefore, the high incidence of mass shootings in the USA is completely irrelevant to the right granted Americans by the Second Amendment.

While the right to bear arms is unqualified, it is also limited. Because my hands are paralyzed, I could not safely handle a gun, so I’m sure that even the staunchest gun rights advocates would say that I should not be allowed to fire a gun around them. As the Supreme Court of the United States decided in District of Columbia v. Heller:

The Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.

So Americans should be debating common sense limitations on the use of guns that can protect Americans from attacks like the one in Orlando yesterday without infringing our right to keep and bear arms.

Should the backgrounds of all gun buyers be checked for criminal prosecutions? Should Americans be permitted to own military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines? Should people with a history of mental illness be allowed to buy guns? These are good questions to debate and valid points can be made on both sides of the issues. But let’s keep that debate real by doing so rationally and based on facts instead of using fallacy and falsehoods.