Tuesday, June 23, 2020


There is a family of five, living in a small town in the Midwest. It consists of the parents and three kids, all boys, ranging in age from 4 to 9.  It was nearing time for the father to come home from work. The kids were sitting around watching TV while the mother was in the kitchen preparing dinner. 

All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, she starts yelling at the kids to do their chores. The kids responded that they had already done them but the mother insisted. She yelled at them, calling them liars and brats..Then she entered the room where they were sitting and started violently slapping the youngest. The older boy sought refuge under an end table but the middle boy didn't escape fast enough. His mom grabbed his arm and threw him across the room.. His head hit the corner of the TV stand and he lay silent on the floor. At that time, the father entered the house.

"Help us Dad!" The oldest boy called out from his hiding place. But the father simply plopped down on the couch and changed channels. The mother continued to beat her youngest son. "Please, Dad. Help me," he pleaded. But the father just yawned.

After a minute, he got up and yelled at his wife to be quiet. "I'm trying to watch TV," he grumbled. With that, his wife stopped the beating and went back into the kitchen. The father just sat back down.

In the aftermath, the youngest son lay lifeless on the floor, bleeding out. The middle son had a bad head injury. The elder son was not injured. He came out of his hiding place and went to his dad. "Thank you, Dad, for making Mom stop hurting us. The middle boy also mustered the strength to thank is father. And when the paramedics came, both sons told them they survived thanks to their father.

But they wondered why their little brother had to die and why their mom had killed him. They soothed themselves with the idea that there must have been a good reason that maybe they were too young to understand.

In a nearby Midwestern town residents were rushing to their basements and bathrooms. A tornado warning had just been issued. Outside, the clouds were becoming ominous and the winds were getting gusty.

A woman was alone in her home. She had no basement so she ran to the hall closet. She heard a low-pitched rumble in the distance. She began to pray, "Please keep me safe, dear Lord. Help me to survive." As the house started to crumble around her, she heard thunderous crashes and booms. But her prayers continued. She has always been a religious woman.

It seemed like an eternity, but was only about three minutes. But finally, the rumbling and crashes stopped. the lights went out and everything was quiet. The woman opened her closet door to see that two of her walls and most of the roof had been blown away.  She climbed over the rubble and went out on her front lawn. Debris was everywhere, including that which had formerly been her neighbors' homes. 

Several minutes later, the news crew arrived and saw her sobbing. They asked her about her ordeal, but all she could talk about was how lucky she was that the Good Lord had allowed her to survive. Five  others had been killed in her neighborhood, but she had only seen the Lord's blessing. Why were other good people killed but not her? She could only come up with the Lord works in mysterious ways according to his own divine plan.

Her faith was stronger than ever, she told the news crew.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Where does Trump fit into the political system?

Even though many of the Founding Fathers were opposed to the idea of political parties due to their adversarial nature, the United States has, from its second president onward, been a nation of political parties. Typically, the president has been elected as a member of one of two major political parties, although at times additional parties have fielded candidates. From their beginning the two major parties, no matter what they called themselves, have been polarized concerning the idea of states rights. In the early days, the Federalist party wanted a strong central government. The Democratic-Republicans wanted most issues left up to the individual states. This has carried through to today, with the Democratic Party's position that the government should lead the way in helping the poor and sick while the Republican Party believes that states should determine their own policies in social matters.

Conservatives, who generally side with the Republicans, believe that the federal government should mainly be  involved with setting and implementing defense policy. Pretty much everything else should be left up to the states. Most do support a social safety net and Social Security, but they believe this safety net should be limited. Many believe that private corporations should somehow be involved in implementing Social Security as well. Conservatives believe that individuals should be rewarded according to their productivity. They believe wealth is accumulated through hard work and intelligent money-handling skills. They are concerned that too many Federal programs that aid the poor only serve to keep the poor in poverty and offer little incentive for the downtrodden to better themselves. Some view the poor as lazy, willing to live at the subsistence level on government handouts rather than to better themselves. Republicans tend to believe in equality of opportunity rather than equality of condition.

Progressives (or liberals) are usually Democrats. They believe that the Federal Government should set policy in all but local matters, and that these policies should be implemented at the federal level. Democrats believe that wealth stems not only from hard work and good money-managing skills, but just as importantly, from random situational dynamics - something most people have no control over. A person can work very hard for years, trying to save as much as possible, but random situations may prevent that person from becoming wealthy. On the other hand, someone can inherit money or win a lottery, providing enough seed capital to insure a better chance at turning their windfall into wealth. Others just simply happen to be at the right place at the right time, talking to the right people. So, since random situations do not provide everyone with equal opportunities, it is up to the government to make sure that those who have been hampered by the luck of life at least have the means to support themselves. They look at the poor not as lazy or unmotivated, but as productive citizens who need a hand up. They also believe that there are certain things that are so important to national well-being and society as a whole that the Federal Government should be in the business of supplying it. National defense is one of these things, something the Republicans agree with. But Democrats also believe that education and health should be included. Republicans think these should be state issues.

But where does Donald Trump fit into this political situation? He ran as a Republican, but earlier in his business career he spoke and acted more like a Democrat. Trump, basically, is an opportunist. He is very wealthy, but he had a large infusion of seed money from his father to get him started in business. Many of his businesses failed. He filed for bankruptcy multiple times. Regardless of how much money he has amassed over the past 50 years, some analysts believe he could have had much more had he simply invested his initial contribution from his father in a more shrewd manner instead of using it to start businesses that eventually failed.

Trump is an egomaniac and narcissist who has learned how to make people like him. He says what they want to hear. He surrounds himself with people who will fawn over him. He is the ultimate elitist. His world is decorated in gold, literally. He becomes angry and incoherent when things do not go his way. He usually gets what he wants, because he has the money to buy it. He became president by identifying the people he could persuade, due to their situation. And like all salesmen, he told them exactly what they needed to hear and made them believe him. In that sense he is charismatic - he can charm an audience. But unlike the mega church preachers, he is not very eloquent in his delivery. In a way, that helps the poorly educated identify with him even more. He says what they need to hear in a manner that they are used to. In other words, to some, he seems much more sincere, due to his limited speaking skills, than he actually is.

And now that he is in office, and is officially the leader of the Free World, even despite not having won the popular election, he is facing self-inflicted crises galore. His base is sticking with him for now because they still hold out hope he can help. But as time goes by and he is unable to deliver on his promises, because he doesn't know how to do the job, his base will fracture. Mainstream Republicans will then determine that Trump is more of a hindrance than a help, and they will start deserting him. It's already starting to happen. Since his party controls both houses of Congress he is probably safe through his first term, but that depends on the results of the several investigations that are currently going on. At the very least, Republicans in the House will start distancing themselves from Trump before the midterm elections for the sake of their own political survival. And if enough of them develop the backbone before 2018, Trump could very well be impeached.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why Do So Many People Disagree with Me?

I have spent some time since Trump's inauguration following the news about his activities as president so far, what he has done and said. And I have divided my time watching the reporting of his antics between CNN and Fox News almost equally, with a healthy dose of CBS and NBC mixed in. Of all those sources, the broadcast networks, CBS and NBC seem not to dwell on the more polarizing aspects of his presidency. They report them but don't dwell for long on them. The big takeaway for me comes from the different emphases CNN and Fox News place on their respective reporting of Trump as president.

I don't watch the evening punditry on Fox News because I know for sure how it goes. There is nothing at all fair and balanced about the Hannity show. CNN seems to be closer to what is reported on the broadcast networks but it tends to dig a little deeper, since it is a 24-hour news network. I don't watch MSNBC because for some reason Comcast puts it in a higher tier that I don't subscribe to.

What I have come away with after a week of Trump as president is a clearer understanding of why some people continue to stick with Trump despite some really outrageous things he has said and done since being elected. The bottom line is that Fox reports on the same stories as do the other networks, but they don't report the entire story. CNN is guilty of the same thing. For example, on Fox News, there's the story about Trump's threat to sanctuary cities to withhold federal funding if they continue to shelter their undocumented immigrants. Fox asks its viewers, "What's wrong with that?" Then it goes on to list crimes committed by these undocumented immigrants in various cities. Trump just wants to protect Americans. Bill O'Reilly (yes, he's an evening pundit - so sue me) and others get this puzzled look on their faces and wonder out loud how liberals can possibly want sanctuary cities to protect this sort of criminal element. And if this type of reporting is all I ever saw, I would probably be a Trump supporter, too.

But there is, of course, more to the story. There is the human aspect. City governments know that the vast, vast majority of these undocumented immigrants are a contributing part of their workforce. And they know that the children of undocumented immigrants who were brought here by their families didn't have a choice in being here. Most of them grew up in America and, except for their place of birth, are just as much American as Trump. These people need protecting from the long arm of the federal government.

It strikes me as odd that the federal government wants states to decide about education policy or about whether to grant women the right to choose to have an abortion. But when it comes to things like rounding up DREAMers or even lately threatening federal action if local officials (Chicago) don't clean up their act, it's ok to force federal action on local governments.

I think what all news consumers should do as much as time will permit is to watch the news from multiple sources in order to get a fuller picture of what is really going on in the world and how this news affects average Americans. The same stories are reported on all networks, but the emphasis is almost always different. I think people have gotten used to tuning in to only the news channels that reflect the opinion they already hold, and thus their worldview is strengthened. But the country is severely polarized. And there are two sides (at least) to every issue. It wouldn't hurt if more people were open to the opposing views. That can start by forcing oneself to watch the news channel you hate more often. And it would also help if all of us would spend more time reading and watching news from more sources that don't report news with a slant but only report the actual facts, even if those facts have been analyzed. BBC News and NPR come to mind. It might not change your worldview, because people clearly resist changing their worldviews, but at least it will enhance your understanding of why so many people disagree with you on the issues.