Friday, September 15, 2017

Short Thoughts on a Woman as President of the U.S.

Following up on something I said in my previous article:

To put it more bluntly: American voters aren't against electing a woman president. But they are against electing Hillary Clinton.

Let me elaborate. As I said in the article, "come on, people, it's 2017." Except for a few on the radical right (the remaining 8% of Americans who still support Donald Trump?), we don't live in the Stone Age anymore, and the idea of a woman as president is not only okay, but it's plausible - maybe even inevitable.

I would consider voting for someone like Condoleeza Rice or Madeline Albright, but not Hillary Clinton. To the best of my knowledge, Rice and Albright are not as blatantly greedy or power-hungry as Clinton. They are not rude, whiny, condescending or snobby, while Clinton is all of those things. They do not have the serious credibility or trust problems that Clinton has. They're not as full of themselves as Clinton is of herself. And they enjoy more respect (and credibility!) in both domestic and international circles of power than Clinton does.

Now, to those of you who will accuse me of holding a woman to a different standard than I would hold a man: first, notice that in the previous paragraph, I compared women to women. Second, perform a quick test by replacing "Clinton" in the previous paragraph with "Trump". See? Not a different standard at all.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

No, HIllary Clinton, You've Got It All Wrong.

I'm going to put the concluding paragraph of this article at the beginning. If you don't read anything else, read this:

Nowhere in What Happened will you read these words, "I understand now. The America people didn't like me because I was a thoroughly unlikeable and immoral person who made it very clear that I was only in it for myself - well, for the power and the wealth." But that's the truth, and that's the bottom line.

Now, if you're still interested, you can read the article from top to bottom.

Hillary Clinton is making the talk-show rounds, plugging her new book, What Happened, which is a very whiny and self-absorbed analysis of why she lost the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump.

No, I haven't read the book. But I've heard a lot of the interviews — too many. Clinton's main contention is that it's everybody else's fault that she lost. Here, in no particular order, are my observations on her comments. Please note that I'm not citing any polls or news articles to support my assertions. I don't feel like doing that today. If that hurts my credibility, tough. Clinton and her election opponent, Donald Trump, did (and do) the same thing.

1. I agree that the Russians were undoubtedly involved.

2. I agree that James Comey's bumbling undoubtedly played a part.

3. Point 2 notwithstanding, I don't think the emails themselves had anything to do with it. But Clinton's attitude, that she could do whatever she wanted and that she was above the law, had a lot to do with it.

4. Trump's charisma, and the voters who were deceived by his charisma, played a big part. Hillary Clinton has never had charisma. See also Kennedy vs. Nixon, Bill Clinton vs. anybody, and Reagan vs. anybody. Charisma wins votes.

5. I disagree that sexism (or misogyny, a stronger word) played a big part. Come on, this is the year 2017. Sexism may have played a part in the right-wing fringes of the Republican Party, but I don't think it played as big a part with the general electorate as Clinton says it did. I think that the majority of Americans are not opposed to a woman as president. After all, we've witnessed successful female heads of state in Great Britain, Germany, India and Israel, to name only a few, but those women were (and are) great leaders and, ahem, statesmen. Clinton's not even in the same league with them.

5a. To put it more bluntly: American voters aren't against electing a woman president. But they are against electing Hillary Clinton.

5b. Do you remember, "Who wants to see a woman president?" Clinton herself shouted this from the podium at a rally, at the beginning of the primary season. She got an overwhelmingly positive response. There's no difference between "Vote for me because I'm a woman!" and "They didn't vote for me because I'm a woman." She was not above using sexism to her own advantage.

6. And point 5a, of course, brings up the Electoral College. She can blame that antiquated institution for her loss, but hey, the Republican side knew how to play the game, and they played it very well. She could have done the same thing. She chose not to. That's her own fault, and nobody else's.

7. Simply put, the American people didn't like her. They thought she was devious, manipulative and underhanded. They thought she was greedy and dishonest, exemplified by the Clintons' looting of the White House when they left it in January 2001. They thought she was self-centered, mean, petty and cruel, especially to those in subordinate positions. They thought, accurately, that she wanted the office of President just so she could collect more power and wealth for herself.

8. Who can forget:
- "I could have stayed at home and baked cookies," her disenfranchisement of half of the electorate in the country;
- "I will do whatever it takes to get elected [president]," justifying her campaign for the U.S. Senate;
- "What difference does it make?" her handwaving dismissal of the Benghazi debacle/tragedy;
- "Get the @#$%* away from me!" to her Secret Service escorts;
- and many other condescending, insulting, dismissive, or imperious remarks? To mix metaphors, she opened her mouth and shot herself in the foot, over and over again.

9. She was married to Bill Clinton. The country still hasn't forgiven him, and they still think she was complicit in some of his debauchery. This may not be fair, but it's real.

10. Many of you will reread point 7 and say in Clinton's defense, "Hey, you can say all these same things about Trump," and you will be right. Everything I said in #7 about Clinton can be said about Trump (except, maybe, looting the White House). Donald Trump was just as bad a choice for president as Hillary Clinton. I've already talked about that, in this article and this article, for example. Neither of them should ever have won their party's nomination, let alone the general election.

Nowhere in What Happened will you read these words, "I understand now. The America people didn't like me because I was a thoroughly unlikeable and immoral person who made it very clear that I was only in it for myself - well, for the power and the wealth." But that's the truth, and that's the bottom line.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Donald Trump is Nothing But a Mean Old Man

Donald Trump is a mean old man. Nothing more.

In June 2015, I had declared Donald Trump an idiot.

In October 2016, during the height of the election season, I declared that he was a lot of other things, none of them very good. And I meant every word I said.

More recently, I had come to the conclusion that  he was an infant and a jackass.

Last Thursday, I declared that Donald Trump is an impostor.

Well, now Donald Trump himself has revealed that he is nothing but a mean old man.

Yesterday, on a Sunday in the middle of a three-day weekend, the White House announced that Trump had "decided" to end the immigration policy known as "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," or DACA. This policy, instituted by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, in June 2012, gave hope to the children of illegal immigrants — children who didn't choose to come here, in the legal sense, but came with their families. DACA was a way to give them hope that they could build a future in this new country — the only country they had ever known, and the place that they considered home.

Donald Trump is not doing any good by canceling this policy. Nor does he care that he is making innocent people suffer.

Trump did not take this step to Make America Great Again, because this does not make America great. It makes America small, petty, and mean — just like its chief executive.

He did not take this step to secure our nation's borders. It has no impact at all on national security.

He took this step because he's trying to fulfill at least one of his campaign promises, and he hasn't had a lot of luck so far.

He took this step as part of his (unwritten) policy to undo everything that President Obama did, good or bad.

And he took this step to solidify his standing among his so-called base. (According to Time magazine, that's only 35% of Americans, and the number is falling. Can't Trump do math?) Donald Trump's base has shrunk to the point that it now includes only the baser elements of American society: the racists, the neo-Nazis, and the right-wing extremists. Oh, and closed-minded, two-faced hypocrites.

If you knew any of these so-called Dreamers personally, you would feel the same way I do.

Twelve years ago, I taught mathematics to some of these children, first in English, as state law required, and then a second time in Spanish, so they could understand and learn.

Six years ago, my sweet wife taught literacy, English, to some of these children. One of them, a young girl, had to skip school every Wednesday to help her parents work in the fields.

Some of these children have now graduated from college. The rest of them have found honest jobs. They have become contributing members of American society. They pay taxes, Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare. They are marrying and raising families of their own.

Where is the justice in sending them back to a country that they don't call home? Where's the fairness? There isn't any.

Let's hope that Congress has the courage and the will, to do something to ward off the damage this "decision" will cause, before it takes effect six months from now.

Please feel free to share this article - I won't consider it copyright infringement.

UPDATE: Tuesday, September 5

So, Trump had his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, give the official announcement this morning. Sessions wrapped it all up in pretty little legalese justification, inventing the word "effectuated" to help him get his point across. But according to MSNBC, a metric trainload of legal and constitutional scholars have rebuffed every point Sessions tried to make, including the most important assertion, that Barack Obama's executive order memorandum, setting up DACA, was illegal.

Then Trump tweeted something to the effect of "Get to work, Congress! You have six months." First of all, he's still laboring under the impression that he's the boss of Congress, and second, he's using an ultimatum again, one of his favorite negotiating tools. Ultimatums are stupid. What do you expect?

Finally, tonight, the Daily Beast reported this:

President Donald Trump said Tuesday night that if Congress cannot pass a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that his administration scrapped, he will “revisit” it. “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!” Trump tweeted. He declined to offer specifics on what “revisiting” would entail. 

Vague threats like this are another one of Trump's negotiating tactics. To bring this article full circle, he sounds like nothing as much as a mean old man, like a grouchy neighbor.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Donald Trump is an Impostor

Donald Trump is an impostor. Donald Trump is a fake.

At one time, I admitted that I might be wrong about Donald Trump, and that it was possible that he was nothing more than a braying jackass.

As his presidential term lurched forward, I changed my mind, and thought of him as little more than a bawling infant.

I've changed my mind again. Just like Frank Abagnale in the story Catch Me If You Can, Donald Trump is nothing more than an impostor. A total fake.

Donald Trump has demonstrated, repeatedly, that he doesn't have what it takes to be president of the United States. He has no leadership ability. He has no morals. He has no empathy. He has no courage. He has no integrity. In place of depth, he has shallowness, an appalling superficiality. In place of knowledge and wisdom, he has willful ignorance and selfishness.

He has no talent. Okay, let me amend that: he has whatever talent it takes to be a unscrupulous, unprincipled real estate tycoon.

And all along, every time he opens his mouth — or Tweets — all I can think is "Jeez, what an idiot". The "idiot" theme spreads over all of my other opinions of him, like gravy covering everything on the plate at Thanksgiving.

The 30-something percent of Americans whom he is still fooling? He doesn't care about them. They don't realize the utter contempt in which he holds them.

It still astounds me that he made it into the White House. I didn't vote for him.

Insert picture here: If I could, I would post a picture here of protestors at an airport, waving huge signs saying "GO HOME TRUMP", "TRUMP IS A FAKE" and "GOOD RIDDANCE", as Trump's private jet lifts off in the background, carrying him back to ... well, to anywhere. Away from Washington D.C.

Update, 4 Sep 2017: Actually, Donald Trump is a mean old man, and nothing more.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Five out of six Democrats and Republicans are stupid

Okay, I've seen two news articles lately with polls like this. These poll results are powerful indictments of the stupidity of the majority of Republicans, and the majority of Democrats.

Here's one example, but it's only an example. Don't get hung up on it. This is a poll that asks people "Whom do you trust more: Donald Trump, or CNN?"

I saw a very similar diagram last week, for a poll that asked people something like "Do you believe in the Trump-Russia collusion connection?" and I've seen similar diagrams for the health care bill, Supreme Court nominees, James Comey's firing, and so on. Let's paint a generic picture of the results of these polls:

Now, I'm going to use some math here. If you're not very good at math, that's okay. You may have a lot in common with the majority of the people I'm going to talk about here. And if you're offended by my condescending attitude, that's your problem, not mine. Don't look here for an apology.

Let's dissect that figure above. First of all, look at the line marked "Independents". These are people who vote, but who don't consider themselves Democrats or Republicans. Most of them don't identify with any political party - not because they're politically apathetic, but because they prefer to do their own research and weigh the pros and cons of an issue (or a candidate) before making their own decision. The party line does not exist for them.

So you can use the statistics on the Independents as a bellwether: politically, they're atheists, logical, dispassionate, and not swayed by labels like red/blue, liberal/conservative, or Democrat/Republican. In this example poll, you can see that 40 percent of the independents lean pro-Trump on the issue, and 55 percent lean anti-Trump. Let's round that 55 percent up to 60 percent, to make the math easier for this example.

(Those of you who don't understand math and statistics may cry "Not fair!" at my rounding. Relax. 40 vs 60 is being kind to Mr. Trump. I saw a poll in June, where 30 percent of independents leaned pro-Trump and fully 70 percent of independents leaned anti-Trump on the question being asked. How about I use 30 vs 70 instead? No? Then stop whining.)

Now, I'm going to propose a theory. I think that political parties are composed of two kinds of people. One kind actually thinks about an issue or a candidate before they make a decision or form an opinion. The other kind always toes the party line. They only need to know what the party line is - no thinking required.

I'm going to pose a second hypothesis. I have nothing to base this suggestion on, other than my belief in the basic goodness of people, and humanity's natural gifts of logic and reason. I'm going to suggest that, if only the thinking Democrats AND the thinking Republicans were polled, their split would be very similar to the Independent results, as shown above.

This means that it takes some independence of thought for a Republican to lean anti-Trump, or for a Democrat to lean pro-Trump.

So let's give those 9% of Republican respondents who leaned anti-Trump credit for thinking for themselves. Using the 40/60 ratio from the Independents, let's also give 6% of the Republicans credit for using their heads, thinking it out, and coming out pro-Trump.

What does that say about the other 83% of Republicans, the ones who voted the party line without bothering to think? It says that they're stupid.

Is stupid too strong a word? How about sheep? Blind followers? Willfully ignorant?

On the Democrat side, let's give those 5% who leaned pro-Trump credit for thinking for themselves. Again using the 40/60 ratio from the Independents, let's give 8% (I rounded up; so sue me) of the Democrats credit for using their heads, thinking it out, and coming out anti-Trump.

What does that say about the other 83% of Democrats, the ones who voted the party line without bothering to think? It says that they're stupid.

Is stupid too strong a word? How about sheepBlind followersWillfully ignorant?

Wow. According to this and other public opinion polls, 83% of Democrats and Republicans are mindless party loyalists. THEY ONLY THINK WHAT THE PARTY TELLS THEM TO THINK.

Democrats think that they are the party of "thinkers" and the Republicans are the party of "stupid". Republicans think that they are the party of "thinkers" and the Democrats are the party of "stupid". Both parties are wrong. As the results of this and many other polls show, they're both the party of "stupid".

If you are a Democrat or a Republican, and you think you're one of the thinking minority, there's an 83-percent probability that you're wrong, that you are one of the party loyalists. The sheep. The stupid ones.

If you disagree with me, there are a couple of articles on Wikipedia that you need to read. The first is about fundamental attribution error, and the second is about self-serving bias, both of which are logical mistakes to which we mortals fall victim, over and over again.

The acrimony, the political divisions in this country will continue to get worse until people stop blindly supporting their party and learn to think for themselves. The poll results will get more and more extreme, and the divide between the two major political parties will get wider and deeper. Polite
political discourse has already ceased; inflammatory rhetoric has taken over. Violence is stomping through the door, and oppression is not far behind.

If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you have to do something to fix this. You don't need to abandon your party affiliation. You do need to abandon your mindless loyalty to your party. Use your brain to figure things out. If your party, or your party's representative, is wrong about something, then separate yourself from the majority on that issue, and make it known.

I don't pledge allegiance to a political party. I pledge allegiance to a flag, the nation that it symbolizes, and the Constitution that it is built upon. I don't vote for party leaders, political appointees, or lobbyists and influence peddlers, and I don't want them running the country - I mean, dictating how people think. That happened in the Soviet Union, but it should not happen here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cancer survivor

I am a cancer survivor.


But I feel like a cheater.

In November 2013, at age 56, my wife found a black spot on the back of my ear. I had it surgically removed. It was a malignant melanoma. Fortunately, they got it all. I will be going back for checkups, every six months for five years, to make sure it doesn't show up somewhere else.

In May 2017, at age 59, I went to the emergency room with the worst stomachache in the history of the universe. I was diagnosed with pancreatitis, given a miracle painkiller called Dilaudid, and admitted to the hospital for four days.

The doctors stuffed me in an MRI tube to take a closer look at my pancreas. They never did find the cause of the pancreatitis, but while I was in there, they found something on my kidney that didn't belong there. Suddenly they were a lot more concerned about my kidney than my pancreas. They did a CT scan and confirmed that I had a tumor on my right kidney.

So about six weeks later, after my pancreas was back to mostly normal, I went into surgery to have the tumor removed. A biopsy on the tumor showed, according to the doctor, that it was a "classic renal cell carcinoma" and that it had "negative margin." He could have just said, "It was cancerous, but we got it all." I will go back for a CT scan 12 months from now, and if it shows no more cancer, then I'm free.

I was lucky—or blessed—both times. The first cancer, the melanoma, was caught by my alert and perceptive wife. The second cancer was only a Stage 1 carcinoma, only 2 centimeters long, and it was what the books call "incidental detection"—something you find while you're looking for something else. The first one was removed in the doctor's office, and all I had to do was wear a huge bandage behind my ear that made me look like Dumbo for three weeks. The second one was removed using video-game surgery, so they didn't have to slice my side wide open and stomp around inside.

That's why I feel like a cheater.

I didn't have to deal with chemo. Or radiation therapy. A suppressed immune system and the resulting opportunistic infections. Massive hair loss. Nausea. Sores that wouldn't heal in my mouth, my ears, or anywhere else. A feeding tube. Catheters and PICC lines. A portable oxygen system. Unending, unrelenting pain. Doctors who didn't comprehend the pain and wouldn't prescribe drugs simply to relieve the pain.

(Side note: I will always be grateful for that Dilaudid, and for the medical professionals who gave it to me. On a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being pain so bad that you would rather die than continue to suffer, the pain from pancreatitis is a 20 or a 30. My doctors and nurses understood that.)

I didn't have to sell everything I own, including my house, to pay thousands of dollars a week for drugs that might or might not keep me alive. My family didn't have to go through weeks and months of endless torment, watching me get alternately better, then worse, but always worse, wondering if and when the beast would finally kill me.

I got to live. Twice.

From the melanoma, I have a skin graft on the back of my ear. From the carcinoma, I have six small scars on my right side. Only nine days after the surgery I'm up and around. I'll be riding my bike in a couple of weeks.

I'm neither bragging nor complaining. I know how blessed I am. Four medical professionals—doctors and surgeons—independently acknowledged the hand of God in this latest episode, remarking on the fact that it hadn't been for my pancreatitis, ...

But I feel guilty. I feel like a cheater. I got out of the cancer class twice, without having to take the full exam.

Still, when all is said and done, there is this:

I am a cancer survivor. Twice.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Four Character Traits that are Vital to Success

In my opinion, all of the success literature either ignores, or takes for granted, four character traits that are vital to succeeding in any endeavor in life. If you're missing any of these traits, you have two choices:
1. Give up.
2. Acquire and develop the missing character traits in your life.

Here are the four traits, and a short explanation of each.

  • Not just courage to do the right thing, but courage to do the scary thing.
  • ... or the uncomfortable thing.
  • ... and, especially, the thing you don't want to do.
  • This is the drive to do something important or meaningful in your life.
  • It's not necessarily about fame, or wealth, or power. 
  • It's the will to do something besides watch TV, surf the web, play games, or read magazines.
  • It's the will to do something with the time you've been given, besides waste it in meaningless pursuits.
  • This is the ability to get up and do something - to start something.
  • Ambition by itself may not be enough to motivate you to action.
  • To repeat and rephrase: initiative is the power to get up off the couch and get started.
  • This is the ability to stick with something until it's completed.
  • My friend John W started dozens of home-improvement projects around his house. He never finished a single one. His house always looked half-demolished, as if a truck had crashed into it. He had an abundance of ambition, but a complete absence of tenacity.
  • Tenacity is related to perseverance, and also to stubbornness. It's the wolverine on the bear's nose in Vardis Fisher's Mountain Man.
  • It's the unwillingness, maybe the inability, to give up.
Notes: I wrote these down on a piece of notepaper and stuck it in my wallet, many years ago. I've been carrying it around since then. It needs to be published - and now it is.

 And here's the original, for those of you who want to see it.

© 2017 R. Ray Depew. You can use these points to give an inspirational speech or write something, as long as you remember to give me credit for them. Always list your sources!