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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ignorance is Not Bliss

I have taught about American politics and government for many years. I can say with a fair degree of expertise, that the greatest problem in our country is the perception by many that ignorance is bliss. Many believe that one word uncomplicated answers to complicated questions is enough for them. Many people lack the basic knowledge of how government works. It isn't easy to understand, and it takes time, time that many people do not have nor care to find. Its easy to have someone yell a cliche, a slogan, a 5 second rant, without substance, listen to it, and shut out the facts, the information and the detail required for a true and accurate assessment of what is real and not fake. Readers, ignorance is not bliss. It brings demagogues and self absorbed egotists like Donald Trump to the forefront. So a quick lesson in government if you can read past this one paragraph is in order. Government is all about influencing elected officials or appointed officials to carry out legislative or policy initiatives that a particular, person, group, business entity or nation supports. For instance, people give money to candidates they support in the hopes that they get elected and carry out policies of interest to them. People hire lobbyists to go to elected officials to threaten lack of support for their election or to educate officials as to the nuances of an issue or policy. An NRA lobbyist for instance. People may join an interest group that is powerful in number, the AARP for instance. People may use States Rights to avoid an intrusive Federal action or go to the courts for a remedy against a law or an issue, transgender bathrooms as an example. All of these are linkage institutions designed to influence government. If it can be proven, that money was given to an official who then did something because of that money as a quid pro quo, that is bribery and is illegal. There sometimes is a fine line. Sometimes it is obvious and we have courts, juries, judges, Congressional investigations and lawyers who make the judgement. So, giving a donation to a charity and asking for a meeting in return is completely part of the normal processes of how our government works. It may seem wrong and not pass your smell test, but it is how it works in America and other places as well. It is like the person who attends a fundraiser and gets to meet the official because of the size of the donation. A meeting, is a meeting. Now if it can be proven, that a government official did something specific in terms of policy or law because of the donation, we have a problem. Holding a meeting, means nothing other than responding to the request for influence. The Clinton Foundation has saved the lives of thousands, brought medicine to the worst areas of the world, helped to train people on basic first aid, helped with agricultural knowledge in areas of hunger, prevented aids, assisted in the ebola crisis, helped nations dig out from under an earthquake etc. It has done great work. 80 percent of its money has gone directly to those who need it with administrative costs relatively low. By collecting donations from the wealthiest people and dignitaries from other countries, it has made the world a better place. Those that wish to soil it, diminish it and stop it, are either too hateful or too ignorant to understand how government works. Lastly, most of the meetings in question over the last few days, before the emails are even published, took place when Mrs. Clinton was not Secty. of State. As we will surely come to find out as with every other attempt at the destruction of Hillary Clinton, nothing that violates the spirit of government happened under her watch. Nothing. Secretaries of State do not set foreign policy. The President does. The State department carries out the wishes of the President. Unless you can find an example of a donation, leading to a meeting with the Secretary of State, leading to an altering of foreign policy directly as a result of that meeting, this is all a bunch of pure baloney. The GOP knows it and so too must you. No people, Ignorance is not Bliss. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Words Matter

I can speak with some authority about the 2nd amendment. It has been firmly established and supported by President Obama, that the individual's right to own a gun is protected, not just groups (militias) as the language of the amendment may suggest. It is also factual, that with all the talk about Obama coming for our guns, gun sales during his Presidency have hit record numbers. It is also true, that the NRA is the most effective lobby group in all of America and every elected official in areas of the country where guns are more a part of ones way of life, are beholden to the wishes of the NRA. Nowhere, however, do I ever hear the most liberal or most aggressive supporter of gun control, suggest a repeal of the amendment or taking the rights of gun ownership away. When the Republican nominee for President says that Hillary Clinton will end the 2nd amendment, in keeping with his ignorance, he forgets that there is a process whereby an amendment can be repealed. The bar is high, and even were it true, a President cannot take away your guns. The most he or she could do is lobby for gun control advocates on a court, use executive privilege and speak out. We all see that even as aggressive as this President has been with all these strategies, the checks and balances of government have thwarted his efforts. So we have our guns, and will for a very long time. Having said all of this, it is important to recognize that invoking the second amendment to a group of ignorant citizens who believe anything they are told, would stimulate some to look to their guns to thwart government and to use them in the name of liberty in a violent and most unfortunate way. Even though today, the Republican spin operation is suggesting that Donald Trump was only encouraging 2nd amendment people to vote when he encouraged them to stop Hillary Clinton, it is important to note that in the past, such references have led to a huge and scary misunderstanding. This guy has encouraged hacking by a foreign power, lies about almost anything and yet still survives. In Schenck v US, 1919, it was decided that if your words encourage a "Clear and Present Danger", your first amendment rights are not protected. So it must be in this case. Words matter. Where are you Americans for Reason and Truth?