Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Quick Science Lesson: Vote for Hillary

Where does air come from? Trees. Or, more specifically, what keeps our air breathable? Photolysis and photosynthesis. We all remember that last one from school, right? Leaves go through a process of photosynthesis and that’s why they’re green, right? Photolysis is one you probably don’t know but it’s what happens to air molecules when light hits the atmosphere. It breaks apart the water part from the gas part. 

Here’s what’s important. Without a lot of photosynthesis, the process of photolysis results in more air gasses drawn down to and absorbed into minerals. Really. Oxidization, the process that causes rust, is photolysis. Red rocks? Red earth? Photolysis back in the day. This made air heavier. So, our early atmosphere, back before we started, was mostly methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen. We can’t breath that. If we do, we die.

So, trees. Photosynthesis basically means that trees absorb the carbon dioxide and monoxide, and release air. All clean. So, as the earth developed trees, and grass, and bushes, the air changed and became beeathable, thus allowing for man. Ever heard of the tree of life? It’s a symbol used by just about ever culture in some way. By the way, if you believe in creation and that the earth is 6,000 years old, if you’ve even gotten this far, you should probably quit now. This is for people that want to learn something. 

Over time, as man pursues ever more technology and just stuff, the rain forests of the Amazon are burned off so that the poor indigenous farmers have land to farm. Use of fossil fuels changes the atmosphere just enough that it creates a sort of cover that heats up the earth (think of a car on a summer day; the air is enclosed with nowhere to go and heats up). Air is moved by heat and cold (jet streams, remember?) and changes in temperature change weather patterns (why do you think we have a hurricane ‘season’?). So, we have droughts, and with dryer conditions, more fires, and all that carbon from all those fires adds to the ‘cover’ heating up our air and so on and so forth. So we lose more trees.

See how just little things, when multiplied by the billions of people on the earth, can change our weather? What exactly do you think will happen when we use it all up? Have you already started shopping for a new planet?

This is why you must vote for Hillary. Trump doesn’t believe in climate change (nobody dependent on the Koch brothers does). Trump may not get money from them, but everyone else in the Republican Party does and so the laws they pass, regulations they enact, or cancel, are whatever keeps that oil flowing. So with him, and Republican control of Congress, we can pretty much count on climate change continuing and maybe even accelerating. Don’t care, cause you’ll be dead by then? Do you have kids? Cousins? Nephews or nieces? Friends? Co-workers? Anyone at all that you care about who might be effected?

What about Stein? After all, she’s the Green Party, right? Number one, she can’t win. Number two. She’s batshit crazy. Check out her platform. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So if for no other reason, no matter what you think you might know about Hillary, or Trump, think of their position on climate change. That’s all. You can care about the other stuff, too, but really, if for no other reason than that you like to breath, vote Hillary.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ginsburg Absolutely Appropriate

Gather round girls and boys for a little history lesson. Justice Ginsburg has made the news for what many are calling inappropriate comments about Donald Trump. In short, they are not inappropriate.

First of all, regarding judicial codes of conduct. Yes, federal judges are not allowed by their ethical code to engage in partisan politics. Theoretically they don’t have to because they don’t have to run for office—they are appointed. The Supreme Court, however, is not bound by this judicial code of conduct. They can do pretty much anything they want. The reason they go through such an intense confirmation process is so that Congress can look at their work over their legal career; review opinions written and decisions made. The idea is that the past is prologue, or, most of us behave much as we have in the past.

This week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made headlines for her blunt comments about Donald Trump. She has made it very clear that she does not think he is qualified to be president and in fact, fears for our country if he wins. Of course, the Republicans are in a tizzy and even such “balanced” tomes as the New York Times have weighed in stating her comments were inappropriate. Trump, of course, has tweeted about this and says she is an embarrassment (someone give that man a mirror). Unfortunately, our distinguished media has once again, failed to do their homework. Once again, facts and evidence seem not to matter.

On to the history lesson. Our first Chief Justice, John Jay became Governor of New York. He ran while a sitting justice and after losing in his first attempt, won and only then stepped down from the court.

David Davis ran for president in 1877 and avoided a tie-breaker by accepting a position of Senator. The most fascinating was Charles Hughes. A sitting justice, he ran against Woodrow Wilson (if you aren’t familiar with our history, Wilson won). He did become Secretary of State and in 1930 after service as a diplomat, returned to the court to become Chief Justice.

Moving a little outside of politics but still interesting, the famous Warren Commission which investigated the assassination of John F. Kenned was run by Chief Justice Warren. The Nuremburg trials held after WWII at the International War Crimes Tribunal were prosecuted by Justice Jackson.

More recently, Chief Justice Roberts sitting in the audience at a State of the Union speech very visibly and clearly made his disdain for President Obama known when the President criticized the recent Citizens United decision. What is more political than that? Justice Scalia not only spoke frequently about political issues, but did so on Fox News. He attended Koch brothers gatherings, accepted trips from lobbyists, and was at a private hunting club (all expenses paid of course) when he died.

So. Can we all just let Justice Ginsburg say what she wants and perhaps give Donald Trump a copy of the Constitution?

Thanks for stopping by, come back soon,

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I read something the other day that got me thinking. It’s a topic that I’ve talked a lot about, thought a lot about, and have written on, but I wish it was something more people would address. The issue? Opinions. Most of my adult life, one of my pet peeves was the phrase “In my opinion…” or “I’m entitled to my opinion.” In my opinion, you are not. Facts are ignored in favor of opinions and as long as we hear from both sides of an issue, we have been given everything we need. We report, you decide. Unfortunately, most of us are not in the position to know the truth unless someone—a reporter for instance—gives us the evidence we need to decide whose opinion on an issue is worthy. As long as the facts remain static, when presented with two or more options for resolving the problem, we can then decide which position, whose opinion is the right way to go

Many, many people are confused about what opinion is. I see it everyday when I turn on the tv to watch the news. I see it in print media and internet postings. This campaign season, it is becoming more and more an issue because people assume that people they like are truthful and those they do not, are not. Supporters of Donald Trump are quite open about the fact that they don’t care whether he speaks the truth. They care that he’s going to fix every one of their problems. A top campaign official even said during an interview that it wasn’t fair to Trump to fact-check him because nobody cared anyway and what was important was what he said. We have as a people, lost sight of what is in fact opinion, and what isn’t. Even worse, we apparently don’t care. 

Here’s the thing. Most of what people refer to as opinion, is to be blunt, ignorance. Or misinformation, or misconception. We have been trained and conditioned to this over time as we lose sight of what reporting is, what commentary is, and why it matters.

Opinion is preference. I like blue, and dark chocolate over light. Those are tastes, what I like and what I dislike. My mother’s favorite phrase as I grew up was Non disputandum est. Latin for “there is no disputing taste.” Our tastes then, are opinion.

Information, however, is data: facts and evidence. I might say grass is orange, but we know it’s green. I might want it to be orange, but it’s not. I learned about photosynthesis and also about rods and cones that determine how we see color and learned that there is a scientific reason why the grass is green. I learned to answer “why is the sky blue?” with information about light and refraction and what happens when the sun’s rays hit the atmosphere and at what angle. Two plus two always equals four, no matter how much we might like it to add up to more. Graphs and charts show the slow but steady increase in temperatures over time, yet corporations more interested in extracting every resource available spend millions if not billions to ensure that we doubt the existence of climate change. Snow is evidence of it’s falsity and yet, I have never seen a commentator explain the difference between weather (what we see when we look out the window) and climate (long-term, usually 30 year, patterns of weather. 

Misconceptions are an absence of evidence and reflect what we would like to be true. The Anti-Vaccine movement, for example, is a glaring example of someone globalizing a single event as the evidence to explain their own personal experience. We like answers, explanations and when something tragic or serious happens, we look for reasons. Cause and correlation are different and yet, when one thing happens after another thing, we often link the two together. Sometimes, there is not even a correlation; simply a cooncidence. We forget that everything that occurs happens somewhere in time; other events will happen either before, after, or simultaneously. The fact that one thing follows another rarely means that the first caused the second.

So how have we come to this point? I could write a book on the amazingly successful propoganda campaign of the Republican Party that over the past forty years has conditioned us to accept opinion as fact and ignore sensationalism, marketing principles, and ulterior motives.

Journalism is a case in point. Somehow over the past couple of decades, there has been a significant blurring of the line between reporting and commentary, or opinion. Used to be, the Opinon page was just that. It is where the editorial board opined on the issue of the day, where columnists gave their perspectives on various things and letters to the editor were a, sometimes humorous, feature. We could assume then, that everything else in the paper was news. Who, what, when, where, and if possible, why. It was the job of the reporter to gather facts and present them in a cohesive manner to help us make sense of the world. Surprising to many today, reporters were required to have evidence before presenting something as fact. If they were reporting on a campaign event, or a school board hearing, if someone presented information that was wrong—and all good papers had fact checkers—it was the job of the reporter to present that information; what was said and then the truth. 

Talk shows were for commentary. Over time, the talk show format grew and today we have shows with panels and commentators and others there only to present one side or another of an issue. I remember David Gregory who took over Meet the Press from Tim Russert famously said that it wasn’t his job to present the facts, but rather to present both sides. Having a Republican and a Democrat was sufficient to “balance” the show. The fact that many of his guests—to be fair, on both sides—often misstated the facts was, to Gregory, not the point. His job as he saw it was to make sure each side of an issue was heard. 

Unfortunately, this perspective in journalism, frequently referred to as both-siderism, is now not the exception, but the rule. The line between reporting and commentary is virtually non-existent. Often, panels gathered to discuss politics include big name journalists there to present their opinion; experience reporting on a subject or a politician serves to credential their opinion. The electorate then, has little understanding of what they are hearing. Is it fact? Is it opinion? What bias might the person speaking hold? Why aren’t we hearing from actual experts rather than those who have developed an opinion from those experts? 

In the past, journalism had standards and practices that were held by all media. Reporters lost their jobs and reputations if in-depth reporting turned out later to be fabricated. If there was any conflict of interest, it was announced up front so that the listener or viewer could factor that into what weight they gave to the information they received. Today? Not so much. Insider reporters state publicly that they have to ensure “access” to politicians so they do not ask difficult questions, or follow-up vague or contradictory statements with more pointed queries. When reporting on Washington, a popular journalist neglects to inform us that her husband, Alan Greenspan, was Chairman of the Federal Reserve and remains active as a consultant. Reporters, just like most of us, like to mingle with the power players. To ensure they keep this access, they make sure that their reporting is such that we are left with the desired reaction. Surely if Hillary Clinton had actually done all the things that she is said to have done, some sort of evidence would have turned up. The fact that it has not is then proof that she is corrupt and pays off those who could give us that evidence. Politicians are universally assumed to be paid by corporate interests and so we assume that “both sides do it” whether catering to corporate interests, their donors, or their own ideology. The fact that both sides don’t do it—or at least not to the same extent—is ignored. Reporters talk about an electorate angry with Washington, neglecting to point out which party is responsible for the things people are angry about. Sure, Democrats take corporate money and are responsive to their donors. The difference? Democrats become Democrats because they have an interest in promoting social welfare. Ideology to ideology, the people most harmed by the actions of the Republican Party invariably vote Republican. Why? Because they have been taught over the years that the Republicans are the party of Christians, family values, and personal responsibility. And anyway, both sides do it. They’re all the same, so just vote for the person you like the best, the one that “speaks” to you. 

The 2008 election was remarkable in that for the first time, we had a national candidate in Sarah Palin who not only contradicted statements she had made in the past, but often, contradicted statements she had made in the previous paragraph. She confidently presented her opinion as fact and plucked data out of the air to “prove” her point. Remarkable because the media, after Katie Couric was roundly criticized for being to hard on her, calmly listened to her obvious lies and then turned to the Democrat and listened to theirs. A watershed moment occurred when Gwen Ifell of NPR moderated a presidential debate and pointed out an error of fact; an event that ensured that she would never again moderate an important debate or even have equal access to politicians. 

So what do we do? Educate ourselves. We live in an amazing time of access to information if we but use it. Libraries are online. Research studies are online. If we gather information from a variety of sources, over time we will begin to learn which are trustworthy. We will learn how to distinguish fact from opinion. We will learn about the relationships between journalists and their sponsors, between politicians and corporate interests. Even who is married to whom can tell us if there might be some bias in their reporting if the information might help the person they married. We can turn off the tv, or watch a variety of sources. We can turn up the scepticism and listen for the bias. After awhile, even the most even-handed of journalists and talk show hosts will show us which candidate they prefer; which ideology they support. There is no problem with that, as long as we understand how to filter what we hear. 

And finally, we accept that politics is messy and complex. We can understand that in a country of over 300 million from every country on earth embracing a variety of ethnicities, religions, races, and creeds, we are never going to agree. Being a successful politician means compromise. It means forming alliances and coalitions and knowing when to give up. We do them no service demanding ideological or religious purity. We do ourselves a greater disservice. This is not heaven or hell. It is not Utopia. It is reality and as adults, we learn that much as we might like to have it all our way, grownups know we cannot. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Little History for Young Women; and Men

A little history for young women--and men--who don't get why Hillary being a woman is a big deal.

We have a conservative movement that is trying to legislate women's bodies. And LGBTQ. And what we think and believe by restricting what teachers can say, what books we can read, and what news we hear.

We have a representative government--not a democracy. This is to protect the minority from shifting opinions. More than 50% of us are women, yet for the 1st time in history, we have a viable woman candidate of a major party.

And for those who think gender shouldn't matter, the fact that you can say that is testament to the women who have come before--women who have died so that we can be equal and vote.

Think I'm a little extreme? When I was born, contraception was illegal. When I was born, Jim Crow was the law of the land. When I was young, my aspirations were limited to nurse or teacher--not doctor or professor, but nurse or teacher. I got my first pair of pants when I was in 2nd grade. You try to climb trees and play fully in a dress. I watched my president get assassinated. I watched police use fire hoses on people. I watched Martin Luther King, Jr. speak and watched him get shot. And Bobby Kennedy. 

We have had to fight and die so that millenials and old, white men can tell us that gender doesn't matter and that it's our fault that things aren't better. Sorry, but after thousands of years of women as property and persons of color only 3/5 of an actual person we've come a long way, but still have a longer way to go. People who think that both parties equally bad, both candidates equally bad need to learn their history.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Why Hillary? Record vs Record

Hillary won the Nevada caucuses amid claims of dirty tricks from both sides. I have read many articles, essays, open letters, and blog posts describing why I support (insert name) or why I switched to (insert name). For the most part thoughtful, insightful, and well reasoned. Unfortunately, the debate and the questions seem to come down to gender. Younger people are universally for Bernie--or so says the media. Women who support Hillary do so because she's a woman (usually mansplained as women not having done the research needed to make an actual informed decision). Young women say that they are angry that older women think they should support Hillary because she's a woman. They say that Bernie gets it and his plans to tear down Wall Street and give free college are the reasons to support him, among other reasons designed to appeal to young people with uncertain prospects.

As an editorial aside, yes, I am generalizing. Women are not a monolithic, homegenous group. Nor are young people or men, or any other labeled group. That's actually not my point. To do so, I need to use the groupings that are already in use for these conversations.

I have given this a lot of thought and find myself agreeing with or disagreeing with points from both sides. I think I get the complaints about women supporting women irritating young women although again, various points of view and varied reasons can lead to the same result. That said, it's impossible to argue against the conclusion. Each point has to be answered; again not my purpose.

What I see, is a group of people who face a very uncertain future that I think most can agree was caused by (or at least exacerbated by) the 1%. Student loan debt is overwhelming when there are few jobs that will allow the average individual to build a life like or better than their parents in the face of that debt. Along comes Bernie promising revolution, universal healthcare, and free college. Hillary prefers to work incrementally and yes, has often compromised what should be ideals too pure to be diluted. She's changed her mind on major issues over time and gets money from the 1%. 

What I find sad, is that it is assumed that every politician is corrupted by contributions and is owned by big business. Perhaps. I agree that money buys access, but politics is messy. It's complicated and tedious. It takes skill to first run a campaign to get the job, then propose and gain consensus for bills. Not only does the politician have to form alliances within, but begin to campaign (and raise money for) re-election. Many politicians manage to juggle conflicting needs and still serve their constituents. Personally, I prefer to hire people skilled at the job so accept some of the mess that goes along with the sausage-making.

Of course, that puts weight on the Bernie side. Right? 

According to, Bernie ranks highly as far as bills proposed, but 2nd lowest in bipartisan support. Specifically, he tends to gather support from his side. Remember, he was an Independent until last fall and caucused with the Democrats. Bernie has been there 25 years. I speak to this connectedness because in order to reach his campaign goals, he will have to have Republican support. Period. If you want to read a really fascinating study done in 2006 on the effects of "connectedness" and success passing bills, check out "Connecting the Congress: A Study of Cosponsorship Networks." You could google that title or comment me and I'll send you the link (I'm working on cranky tech). Warning, it is peer-reviewed and 11 pages, but 2 of those are bibliography and several pages are diagrams and charts.

Also from govtrack, Bernie scored the most progressive, but well down on leadership. Hillary scored higher in leadership but I think most people agree that in ideology and voting recordes, they are remarkably aligned.

If you look at the categories of bills sponsored, Bernie was at 27% in armed forces and national security, Hillary 0. Bernie came in at 18% health, Hillary 14%, Bernie was 11% labor and employment, Hillary 9%, Bernie 10% energy, Hillary 0. Bernie was 9% government operations and politics, Hillary 23%, Bernie 9% education, Hillary 8%, Bernie 8% taxation, Hillary 0,  and finally for Bernie, 7% finance to Hillary 15%.

Hillary had some zeros (remember, these are bills sponsored). But her interest diverges somewhat as she then sponsored 11% science, technology and  communications, 10% social welfare, and 10% families. [source]

If you are interested in comparing the two bill by bill, those sources (and Congress's own sites) can delve into details. What I do not hear as we compare history, is recognition of the world around them. Yes Hillary campaigned for Goldwater (massive demerit) but she was in high school. Her time in the Senate was the years of W, Iraq and the meltdown of the economy. Yes, she has friends on Wall Street, but she was the senator from New York and they were constituents, too. They also funded (generously) speeches to support her foundation, but what does the foundation do? What percent goes to actual program? (87.2%). Google it. Yes, I'm unhappy with some of her record and previous choices, but I am more concerned by someone who won't change their mind or explain how they went from belief A to belief B. Can anyone honestly say that their beliefs have remained unchanged for the past 20-30 years? I didn't think so. But then, I believe in evolution, both in science, and in our emotional development. 

So Bernie is all about income inequality. Every question to him comes back to it. His legislative career suggests otherwise if you look at his interests. There are a variety of committees and sub-committees and legislators tend to gravitate to those areas that are of interest and hopefully, in which they have knowledge and experience. Bills proposed tend towards those interests which is why I listed the breakdown above. Amendments are numerous and success comes down to who you can get to co-sponsor and who they can get and so on. Having high-level friends (in terms of networking rank) gets you better chances. So personality, the ability to compromise, and working both sides is essential to success in Washington. 

Much of this article and the research I did came from how to answer all these people who see only negatives in Hillary and hang their choice on the "I won't vote for a woman just because she's a woman."

In a conversation the other day, we came to the conclusion that there are two types of people, politically speaking. There are those who like to delve deep, who get news from a variety of sources, who pay attention and have a history and a context. These people can place campaign statements along side everything else that person has said and done and remain politically tuned in all the time. Year after year, election season or not. Wonky nerds. The other type are those who somewhere along the line begin to pay attention, usually in a heated primary season but often not until the only commercials on tv are political ads. They may or may not read a newspaper or news magazine. They likely do not spend much time reading blogs or talking about politics. Their information and everything that informs their vote comes down to randomness. Family, friends, co-workers, always vote x, or saw a clip somewhere and the candidate seemed nice. Or not. Single issue, or what their pastor tells them. They don't have the context.

So when young women, or young people get excited about Bernie and angry when other women tell them they should vote for Hillary don't know the history. The forty year GOP plan to dumb down the voters, appeal to fear, and knowledge that if you cut funding for education and teach them that science is just a theory and build a culture around sound-bites, you can say anything, pander, and then get to Washington and do what you want.

You know that common phrase frequently heard from the right that "I don't hold my finger up to see which way the wind blows, I vote my conviction?" We actually should want them to see how the wind blows, or in other words, listen to their constituents.

The GOP has been after Hillary since she appeared on the scene. People don't trust her, but can't actually find anything that would show that. They say she's power-hungry and stayed married so she could run for president some day. Really? You heard all their private conversations? You really think that all politicians marry for and remain married for love? Even if she did have hopes and dreams to one day be a politician herself, what's wrong with that? We all have dreams. How many wives got their foot in the door to positions in or around politics because of a spouse or other family? That's how it works. Why shouldn't she want something for herself after all those years of being the wife?

Ever notice that Bernie is cranky, shouts, and oh, that's just Bernie but then tells Hillary not to shout?

I haven't seen any changes in Hillary since this campaign started. She has shifted some priorities but that's what we should hope for as she gets out on the trail and talks to people outside the bubble. I have seen a lot of changes in Bernie. Some good as he actually gets out in the crowd, but he's doing big donor fundraisers and has as much as called Hillary corrupt without actually saying it. He's tried to erase his lingering sexism (and suggesting that Hillary is playing the gender card when she talks about being the 1st woman president and then turns around and talks about being the first Jew) is a form of sexism.

So, my own thinking has evolved as I write this. I have always liked Hillary but waited a long time before deciding who to support. I will vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is, but I hope it's Hillary. 
I watched woman struggle for autonomy along with other groups after the civil rights act and gain ground slowly but always moving forward. I watched as the disabled fought for and gained rights. And for the last 20 years, I've watched as the extremist right has chipped and chipped away many if not most of those rights. Unable to enact the big things, the right has used funding to deny services. I watched as they continue to tell women that we don't get to say what to do with our bodies. I watched as young girls are told by the media to be sexy even as little girls, than shamed at school because they grow breasts and has to ensure that no one wants to rape her because her clothing reveals her shape. That's why I will vote for Hillary. When it comes down to it, because she is a woman and because she has gotten this far while a woman and because she knows how to do the job.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The PC Police and Both Siderism

Huh. Just read that the reason people support Trump is because they're afraid to say anything because of the PC police and he says what they can only think.

Seems the liberal left dominates the debate and anything they don't like is wrong. 

Here's the thing. Just because a bunch of people have an opinion, even if it's a majority of the people, doesn't make their opinion true, or okay. We wouldn't need the Bill of Rights if that were the case. Remember, we are not a simple democracy ie majority rules; we are a republic with representative government with a Constitution that protects the minority from shifting public opinion.

We're all raised to respect others' opinions, but you know what? Some opinions shouldn't be respected. There's this belief that a middle ground somewhere is a good thing, but it matters the middle of what? Some western GOP legislators want to give federal land back to who it really belongs to--in their opinion, ranchers, mining companies, etc. others want the land protected by the federal government for the benefit of all (who do you think benefited when John McCain worked a deal to sell tribal sacred lands to an international mining company?). If we really believe the land should be returned, lets all pack our bags and go back to wherever our ancestors came from. Oh, now it's cool to have native blood? 

Our country as embodied by our media suffers from both-siderism. Each "side" has an opinion so in fairness, each "side" gets to have their say. Notice, nobody actually fact checks and we get to decide, based on perceived political orientation (or whatever our opinion is based on) which"side" we're on. Sometimes opinions are just wrong (all Muslims are not extremist jihadis just as all white Christian men are not members of the Klan). 

It isn't PC to call people people instead of adding qualifiers (black, white, gay, straight, male, female...) it's just the correct thing to do. It isn't anti PC to be a bigot, misogynist,'s just wrong. Drawing a line somewhere in the middle between hate and love isn't finding common ground. It's allowing hate to flourish because remember, everyone is entitled to their opinions.

Have your opinion. Just don't expect me to respect it or you.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon,