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On Reaching Out And Giving Chances

It’s now been a week since the unthinkable happened and we are now faced with a Trump presidency. For me this was an outcome I believed never could happen. Trump was so demonstrably wrong for the job that I could not conceive that any person of sound judgement could vote for him. Clearly I was either wrong or there are far fewer people of sound judgement that I thought. Those who have had the misfortune to be facebook friends with me have had to suffer through days of long posts on the subject. This is also likely to be long but the intent is a bit different.

Trump says he wants to be a president for all Americans. He wants us to come together. They are good words. I want the same thing. But, that’s pretty much where the agreement ends. 

Trump helped make the divide in this country worse than it has ever been by running the most divisive campaign I’ve ever witnessed, perhaps the worst in American history. He did this by using racially charged rhetoric. He did it by targeting the members of an entire religion. He did it by having a white nationalist run his campaign. He did it by an utter and complete disregard for the truth. He ran on slogans and didn’t have any substance.

Before people start chiming in with Clinton’s faults and to be sure there were many, this isn’t about her. This is about the kind of campaign Trump ran from it’s beginnings to it’s finish. He denied saying things that he was on record as having said. He lied at a rate that I did not think was humanly possible. People seemed surprised but one cursory glance at Trump’s career showed that this is who he has always been. He has always lied. He has always been a misogynist. He has had a history of discriminatory business practices. He has always been unable to cope with criticism. These are undeniable though Trump denies them. 

Now, after months of demagoguery, he says to us, “Give me a chance.” His supporters say, “That’s just the politics of the campaign. It isn’t how he really feels.”

Seriously? Anyone who believes that is living in a state of serious denial.

If that isn’t how he really feels then he is the most opportunistically vile man I’ve ever seen. If he does believe then he’s just vile. There isn’t a lot of upside here. He did these things and unless you live in the same truth-free bubble Trump lives in you can’t deny it.  He gave voice to the nastiest parts of our society and he made it the calling card of his campaign.

If he wants a chance then he has to immediately change his ways. He has to govern from the center and not the alt-right. Has he shown any signs of that?

The first name on his list of appointments was Steve Bannon, the guy who ran his campaign.  If you have managed to miss that name for the last few months (as Paul Ryan claims to have), he is a proud card carrying white nationalist. They call their movement the alt-right, but it’s white nationalism. It’s anti-woman, anti-black, anti-semitic, anti-gay, anti-muslim. Pretty much if you can put “anti” in front of it and it’s a word that relates to diversity then that’s Steve Bannon and his white nationalists. Look at his website Breitbart and you will be appalled. I refuse to link to it but if you think there is any chance that Bannon is a good human being then you need to look. This is a group that would make Hitler and Mussolini proud.

Throughout the year of the campaign, hate crimes have been rising. They spiked immediately after the election. Yes, some were against Trump supporters but they were 20 times more likely to be against Muslims, immigrants, African Americans and the LGBT community. The people committing these crimes are thrilled that Trump will be president. Many are acting in his name. They see him as one of their own. These are the people that the hateful speech of his campaign has made bold. These are the people who are thrilled that one of their own will be president.

What is Trump’s response? It took five days and all he can say is, “Stop it.” He claims he wasn’t even aware it was happening which doesn’t say much about the guy who will be protecting all of us when he’s only focused on tweeting about the protests against him. I don’t expect his words to have much effect but we’ll see. His attitude seemed dismissive of it being an important issue. When they continue, as they are all but certain to do, we’ll see if he will react. If he continues to be dismissive then that says something about who he cares about protecting.

He still insists that he wants to eliminate a woman’s right to choose. This is not a centrist view. This is an extreme right wing position.

He thinks he’s reached out the gay community by saying that marriage equality is settled law and there’s no need to change it but his transition team is filled with virulently anti-gay people, starting with his VP. The list of potential Supreme Court candidates his campaign listed is filled with anti-choice and anti-gay names. Trump is either naive or deliberately trying to defuse opposition. Could he change the list? Sure, but his transition team is fillled with people like Ken Blackwell who belongs to a hate group. This is not reaching out. This sends a very clear message. It’s hard to trust someone that is more focused on the criticisms of the New York Times than he is on his own transition. 

He still says he supports so-called religious freedom bills which only dress up discrimination in religious language. Trump says he would support a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to discriminate.

Next people will say, “Don’t worry. The Republicans won’t let him go too far. After all, they spoke against him during the campaign.” 

This one is the ultimate form of wishful thinking.

First, all the Republicans have fallen into line. Paul Ryan is doing his best to pretend that the last year never happened to the lengths of pretending he has no idea who and what Steve Bannon is (“I’ve never met him. I don’t know anything about him”). Uh huh. It seems that Ryan, like Trump doesn’t watch the news. Second, the modern Republican Party was already an extremist party. It’s 2016 platform is explicitly anti-gay, anti-choice and anti-immigrant. The only reason they don’t look extreme is in comparison to the campaign Trump ran. These issues got very little media coverage except around the time of the RNC convention. Expecting them to protect the civil rights of anyone who isn’t one of the Right People is yet more wishful thinking.

Many of the people who voted for Trump think it’s about the economy. Most of them don’t believe that any of the scary predictions we have made will come true. But the people they voted in have a very clear agenda. They haven’t been shy about saying it but they got enough Americans to believe it wasn’t  real. Even if Trump himself may not be as radical (I have my doubts about that but I’m willing to concede the point since it’s ultimately irrelevant), the people around him are almost universally enemies of civil rights except for white, straight, male Christians.

So, give him a chance? No, not until he has shown me he isn’t trying to destroy the very things that are what make America actually great. He is the one that won and he is the one who must earn my trust and the trust of anyone who values civil rights. He’s got a steep uphill battle to do that. It’s hard to trust someone who lies and will clearly say anything. It’s hard to trust someone whose words and actions do not align. 

People say we should be reassured because he’s now softening on some of his campaign promises. Again, it’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t seem to have any relationship with the truth. Even if he is backing off the promises the only thing I’m sure about Trump is that he’s looking out for Trump. In the meantime we must watch.  He must reach out to us and it must be with more than words. He’s proven his words are worthless. Only his actions will bring trust. 

We can expect the first of these actions soon with the release of his intended cabinet appointments. If it’s the people from the list of names we’ve seen so far (climate science deniers, oil executives, serial quitter Sarah Palin, etc.) then we will know exactly where we stand. It will be on opposite sides of an ever widening gulf and Trump will be the one doing his best to continue making it wider.

I don’t want to end on such a negative note. The next few years look bleak, to be sure. We must be ready to use every peaceful means at our disposal to oppose any actions that give legitimacy to the alt-right. We must organize. We must be vigilant. We must be ready in 2018 to elect progressive candidates. And, if you believe in the power of prayer, then pray that the progressive wing of the Supreme Court stays healthy and doesn’t give Trump any additional opportunity to appoint more than the one candidate from his list he seems certain to get.

Most of all, stay involved. Don’t tune out. This is a setback worse than 2004 (just see how devastated my posts are from back then) and despite the fact that it’s worse because we thought America had changed for the better, it is only a setback and we will overcome this. If I made a mistake in 2016 it was of complacency and overestimating that Americans would see through Trump. The truth is that even if they did see through him they didn’t care. I’m not going to go into my analysis of why and how he won. Others have done that and better than I could. Instead, I’m focused on learning from our mistakes and learning how we can build a bigger, and stronger coalition so that people will not be so desperate for change they turn the keys back over to the group that ran the economy off the cliff in the first place. If there is a cruel irony here that is it.

When Congress begins meeting in 2017 to begin advancing Trump’s agenda, pay attention. If there is something good in it then support it. If you think it is wrong then call your congressman and senator. Telephone calls are more effective than letters or emails according to former staff. Pick up that phone and let them know what you are worried about.

Pay attention at the state and local levels. This is where a lot of anti-choice and anti-LGBT legislation is going to come from. Expect more religious discrimination bills and more attempts to prevent women from exercising their rights. It’s already started in Florida and Texas. The organizations that fight this are going to need our help more than ever. Make donations, make monthly ones if you can.  But, do more than donate. Make your voices heard. Talk to the people you know who supported Trump and try to show them what the unintended consequences of their actions are. Go the marches that will be happening. Keep the attention of the media focused on these issues since the media has the attention span of a gnat. Actually most gnats seem to have longer attention spans.

Let’s work together and show Trump and his alt-right cronies that America is bigger than them and that American won’t stand for the prejudice and bigotry of their cause. And if, by some miracle, he surprises us all and turns to the center then let’s support that. I don’t expect it to happen but I’m prepared to accept it if it does. 

A Personal Plea

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I know all of us want this death march of an election to be over. Before that happens I wanted to reach out to those who know me and also might be considering supporting Trump or a third party candidate. Many of us think that the choices we make on election day don’t really matter all that much. No matter who wins it won’t affect the life of people we know one way or another. 

I’m here to let you know that if Donald Trump gets elected that it has the potential to harm my life in a very direct and personal way.

You may wonder why I say that. After all, Trump doesn’t target gay people like Bush and Romney did. And it’s been a bit of a blessing for gay issues not to be a major factor in the election this cycle. However, because of that it’s easy to overlook that while Trump himself may not be overtly anti-gay the people he is surrounded by definitely are.

His running mate, Mike Pence has made a career of being anti-gay. As the governor of Indiana he signed a horrible legalized discrimination bill that lets people hide behind religion to justify discrimination. He’d love to eliminate marriage equality. And that’s just to start. He’d probably go further given the chance.

But, unless Trump dies in office, Pence wouldn’t have much of a platform to work from. The real issue is the Supreme Court. The odds are good that the next president will have up to three seats to fill and the names Trump has listed as likely candidates would love to hear a case to repeal marriage equality. If that happens you can expect regressive legislatures around the country to do their utmost to dismantle our marriages through legislation.

So, for me, this is personal and I’m hoping it will be for you also. Help Lauri and I protect our marriage and elect Hillary Clinton. If you can’t vote for her on her own merits then do it to help protect us. Do it to protect the women in your life who could be harmed by the decisions of a Trump court. Your decisions do matter so, please, get out there and vote!

Libations With Linda, Episode 4: Jeremy Epstein – Electronic Voting Machine Security

With the presidential election just over a week away I thought it would be timely to talk about, not politics, but our voting infrastructure and the steps we can take to ensure our votes are counted as we intended. With the talk of rigged elections and the periodic news stories of voting machines misrecording votes I turned to Jeremy Epstein, an expert in the field of the security of electronic voting machines. He tells us about the pros and cons of these machines. Along the way we enjoy some Strongbow Gold Apple Cider.

Here are the links mentioned or shown in the video:

This episode runs longer than the pervious ones but Jeremy does a great overview of the issues involved with DRE voting machines and it’s worthwhile for anyone interested in the integrity of the voting process.

On the technical side, the audio is better this time but I am still working out the best way to get a clean chroma key.

After Three Debates It’s Clinton 3 – Trump 0

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We’ve seen three debates and for what it’s worth (which I know isn’t much), here’s my analysis. Take it with how ever many grains of salt (preferably nicely arranged on a margarita glass) you need.

  • Clinton usually answered the questions she was asked. Trump usually didn’t. He tried to pivot away and make the point he wanted to make even when it wasn’t a question about his, um, colorful past.
  • Trump interrupted less as the debates wore on but his facial expressions were enough to terrify small and not so small children. I feared his face was going to break from the scowl. When Clinton attacked the things he said or did he looked like he was about to become apoplectic. By comparison, she usually looked fairly comfortable and relaxed.
  • Trump has serious issues with reality. Through three debates he’s consistently denied saying things there is plenty of video showing he said over the years. How someone can live in such a state of denial is beyond me. People used to talk about the Steve Jobs reality distortion field but he had nothing on Trump (although Steve was actually better at getting people to believe him).
  • I think Trump’s reference to the “Obama regime” is telling. Regime is a word usually associated with dictators. I don’t think he was trying to cast Obama as a dictator (at least that’s not how it sounded from context). I think he thinks of presidential administrations as regimes. And that says how  he would view his own presidency. That scares me more than a little.
  • Trump is clearly willing to say anything without any supporting evidence. Most of the accusations he threw at Clinton were obvious fabrications. Either he believes these things (and given his penchant for quoting conspiracy theories maybe he does) or he is unfettered by ethical considerations. Either way that makes him dangerous.
  • I expect a politician’s views to evolve over time. After all as we learn more, our views should adapt to that knowledge. Trump’s views change faster than some people change underwear. You can find video of Trump contradicting both his own words and those of his campaign representatives of dozens of topics usually within days or weeks.
  • I think Trump’s denial of sexual assault is also telling. He attacked the accusers and then basically said they weren’t pretty enough to bother with. I had talked with others about this sort of denial earlier this week where he basically admitted that he could do something like that if they met his standards and was glad to see Clinton bring it up. Whenever Trump is challenged on anything he attacks the challenger and not to deal with the substance of the challenge.
  • His “apology” for his talk of sexual assault with Billy Bush was not an apology at all. He tried to downplay the significance and said it wasn’t him but it matches decades of his own recorded words on the way he treats women.
  • I think both are wrong on healthcare. Insurance is the wrong model for something you know you will have to use. At that point it’s not insurance. It’s just a middleman creating inefficiency in the system. I’m not sure what the perfect healthcare system is but it probably looks more like a single payer system than our current model. Think of the entraprenurial spirit that could be unleashed if people were free to take the risk of starting a company if they didn’t have to worry about health care for their families!
  • Overall Clinton responded to most questions with substantive answers (at least to the degree a two minute answer allows). Trump kept saying “bigly,” “tremendous” and “disaster”. I want to know the president has a plan that is more than a slogan.
  • Trump’s tax plan actually hurts lower class and middle class families but is incredibly generous to corporations and the wealthy. Clintons actually helps middle and lower class families. Trump’s trickle down theories does just that. It shuts the economy down to a trickle based on the experience of the Reagan/Bush years.
  • Trump was almost incapable of not getting the last word. I lost track of the number of times he would not let the moderator continue when Clinton was supposed to be the final speaker.
  • Clinton showed us how easy it is to get under Trump’s skin. He goes to extraordinary lengths to try to justify himself even when there is no defense. The one time he apologized for something he did, he then undercut his own apology. I have seen five year olds who were less easily provoked than Trump.
  • Trump’s love of Putin and other dictators and his methods shows that he doesn’t understand what it is to be our president and what democracy is about.
  • And lastly, his rhetoric about rigged elections and not accepting the results when he loses is dangerous. He may just be posturing because he needs to justify to himself that this is the only way he could be beaten by a woman, but even if that’s all it is, is dangerous. There are many people who will take his words and use them to act. Trump himself could be the cause of the radicalizing of a disenchanted group of Americans. He could be planting the seeds that lead to domestic terrorism. Whatever his motivations for this rhetoric, it is dangerous and only serves to undermine our political system.

Over three debates  I found Clinton to be the reasoned, calm voice and Trump to be the voice of hysteria. This isn’t to say that Clinton is perfect. She is probably the most investigated person ever to run for president. But think about it: all those investigations by her most potent political enemies and they couldn’t find any criminal behavior, Ever. And they were trying really, really hard. She may not be a saint but she is certainly no devil. Trump has shown no signs of being anything other than Putin-lite.

Libations With Linda, Episode 3: Lauri – Coming Out In The Air Force

In this episode I speak with Lauri about life in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1980’s and what it was like to be a lesbian and serve in the military.

Our libation is Ménage à Trois Midnight, a delicious red wine blend.

The book mentioned in the episode is Secret Service: Untold Stories Of Lesbians In The Military by Zsa Zsa Gershick. My suspicion is that it is out of print now, but it makes fascinating reading.

Linda’s Rules For Debates

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My rules, if I had been running the debate:

  1. Turn off the mic of the person who is not supposed to be talking.
  2. After the respondent’s time is up, turn off that person’s mic.
  3. If the respondent did not answer the question that was asked, point that out and if time remains allow them to continue.
  4. Don’t allow the respondent to deny reality. Lead the question with the video showing what was actually said and require them to respond to that.

Debates that devolve into verbal free-for-alls have zero value.

The Point With Trump’s Taxes

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With the recent New York Times article about Trump possible avoiding taxes for up to 18 years, the news media has been in a bit of a frenzy. But, largely, to me at least, it seems like they’ve missed the point.  We can have a debate about whether the tax code is promoting recovery or allowing the rich to skate on the back of the middle class in cases like this, but it’s the secondary question.

I expect most people try to take advantage of anything the tax code offers to lower their tax liability. If someone can finagle that down to zero, then good for them. However, assuming it was all done legally, it’s not the point. For me the point is that this was only possible because of a huge, nearly billion dollar loss. Since Trump is running in large part, on his success in the business world, this loss stands in direct contrast to that. To put that in perspective, he lost more in one year than fifty people might make in a lifetime. That he was able to bounce back from that is due, in large  part, to taking advantage of the tax code that he claims to want to fix. But, while Trump was able to recover, how many were not? How many business had to close because he never paid his bills? How many people lost jobs at his operations? His recovery came at the expense of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others.

This revelation also reveals the hypocrisy of his criticism of others for not paying enough in taxes.

People used to marvel at the reality distortion field created by Apple and Steve Jobs but Jobs had nothing on Trump.

Clinton Impresses During Debate

Clinton 2016 LGBT Logo

I just finished watching the first presidential debate and was expecting it to be painful to sit through. To my surprise, I actually found it informative and it held my attention. Recognizing my own confirmation bias, I tried to listen critically to both candidates. Could my own world view keep me from making a rational judgement? I owed it to myself to try to listen to both candidates as if I’d never heard them before. Here were my takeaways from the debate:

  • Trump just can’t tolerate being called wrong. Over and over he interrupted when he disagreed with Clinton’s remarks. You could see on his face how angry it made him to have his judgement questioned.
  • Where Trump either sidestepped questions or answered in generalities, Clinton answered in specifics (to the degree that the format allowed).
  • Trump continued to ignore history and pretend that he never said the things he said. And when he admitted to them he said they were either said “lightly” or were unimportant.
  • Trump proved to me he does not understand international treaties and foreign relations while Clinton had an excellent grasp.
  • The best Trump could say on court cases where his companies were sued for racist practices was that he settled without admitting guilt and that it happened to lots of other companies also.
  • Trump as much as admitted it was his strategy to blame Clinton for everything and anything. Either his grasp of recent history is woefully inadequate or he just doesn’t care and will say anything. He blamed Clinton for virtually every woe in the world today for things that predated her entry into politics. That woman has some amazing influence by Trump’s reckoning.
  • Trump basically says almost every idea that comes from Clinton was “failed” or “a disaster” without providing any evidence. His ideas are “great” but, again, no evidence to support that other than the words came from his mouth.

The only Trump positive I could find was that he actually remained relatively calm. This was the same Trump we’ve seen just quieter. He dismisses any idea that isn’t his; can’t tolerate criticism and dodges responsibility for anything he’s done. By comparison, Clinton was articulate. She was prepared and her arguments made sense. It was clear to me that Trump does not have the temperament to be president and Clinton does.

Congratulations to Secretary Clinton for a great job and further solidifying my confidence in her.

To All The Depressed Millenials

Your Vote Counts button

Many of the millenials I know were fervent Bernie Sanders supporters. I get where they were coming from. Bernie made a lot of good points and had a lot of good things to say, but he didn’t become the nominee. One can argue that the system was rigged against him and to some degree it was but he knew that going in. He was always a long shot although at times it felt closer than it really was.

Now, with six weeks to the general election, many of those same millenials are still trying to figure out what to do. Vote for Gary Johnson? Not vote at all? Many of you harbor quite a dislike for Clinton. I’m not going to argue whether you should like her. You’ve got your reasons and I respect them even if I disagree with many of them.

I’m happy to try to convince you why I think Clinton would actually be a good president. She’s smart. She’s experienced. She has done a great deal of good work over the years. But, she’s also saddled with a perception problem. With decades of political life behind her she’s been in some ethically gray areas at times. Truthfully, any politician you see with that much experience will have the same issues. However, in my life, I’ve never seen a person who has been so systematicallly smeared by her political opponents as she has been. President Obama comes close but it’s been going on far longer for Clinton. These smears have been going on for so long that many people assume they are true. After all, people have been saying these things since before some of you were even born. However, for the sake of discussion, let’s ignore all that and assume there’s at least some truth to them. How should that influence the vote in November?

Let’s run through the options. The most appealing candidate to many Bernie supporters might appear to be Gary Johnson, but in fact he’s very much opposed to most of Bernie’s policies. Social safety net? Not so much from the libertarian. And let’s not forget that he’s less informed on foreign policy issues than the average 6 o’clock news viewer.

Jill whatshername from the Green Party? Her campaign strategy seems to be to get arrested to get any kind of news coverage. If I can’t remember her name then nobody else can.

And then there’s the orange candidate. Trump seems to think that disaffected Bernie supporters will flock to him. But Bernie supporters have far more sense that that. The only thing that Trump and Bernie have in common is that both have tapped into latent (and sometimes not so latent) anger in their supporters. But, they are angry about different things.

So that leaves Clinton or not voting as the only other options.

The only practical option is to vote for Clinton. Welcome to American politics (probably all politics) where there usually isn’t a candidate that feels like someone you can really support. However, you need to.

Let’s be clear: not voting or voting for a third party candidate only helps Trump. It might let you feel morally superior but that feeling will go away quickly when Trump manages to create even more chaos in the world. Where Clinton might be morally gray he is morally corrupt. All politicians lie to a degree but he lies more than any other in Amnerican history. Clinton is actually relatively truthful for a politician according to Politifact. Clinton’s foundation does real humanitarian work but Trump’s pays his legal bills and buy portraits of Trump. Where Clinton has policies Trump has slogans. She is substance. He is vaporware and hyperbole.

So, if you are a millennial and don’t want to vote for Clinton, do it anyway. But, then stay involved. Change the system. Build a viable third party (and fourth and fifth). It will take years of work but this country needs political options beyond what we ave  because our current two party system has become so polarized that there is no room for sanity. Trump’s very existence is an example of that. In any sane system a politician who is overtly racist and misogynistic and morally bankrupt would never rise to be a major party’s candidate. Clearly the system needs change. But, just as clearly, the time for that change is after the election. For this one, hold your nose if you have to, but vote for Clinton. Then change the world.

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