Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'rant'

A Welcoming Congregation

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Oct 13, 2016 @ 6:38 pm PST

round challah userpicGood news: This post is not about Decision 2016!

If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you know I typically wait until I have at least three articles on a subject before writing up a news chum post. But two articles crossed my feeds today, and I feel they are important enough to break that rule. They both concern areas where we have failed to be sufficiently welcoming — or overly welcoming — in our progressive Jewish congregations.

The first, from Kveller, talks about how painful Jewish holidays can be for an introvert. The author writes: “Three times a day every day, we’re supposed to pray in a group consisting of at least 10 people. In my community, there are daily classes and one-on-one sessions of Torah learning where attendance is strongly recommended. Having Shabbat guests at your table is considered a must. Mind you, this is just during the course of a regular week. The holidays—especially the eight-day ones—barely allow for breathing space between parties.” I saw this first hand during Yom Kippur, when the mass of people at our High Holy Day services was too much for an introvert I know, and they had to retreat to the quiet of the office, away from the service. As Jews, we come from a culture that emphasizes the value of community, and community being there to support you. Yet for some, being in that community is overwhelming — and our urge — to go over and welcome them — is just what they don’t need. They need the quiet, the space. Somehow, we need to create worship spaces that are both communal and yet apart; spaces that permit people to join the community without being surrounded by the masses that make them uncomfortable. It is a different way of welcoming — recognizing that welcoming may be something different than a hug or a handshake. The article concludes: “remember the introverts this holiday season and give them credit for hosting meals and going to synagogue and not walking in the alley to avoid seeing you. Take the time to praise and encourage your introvert friends—preferably in a non-confrontational way such as an e-mail or text, as opposed to showing up at their door unannounced. And may all extroverts and introverts alike be blessed with a happy, healthy, and sweet New Year.”

The second is an NPR piece about a black, Jewish woman and how she never felt a part of her progressive Jewish congregation. She writes: “I’m a black woman. No one ever assumes I’m Jewish. When I talk about Judaism, people look at me in a way that makes me feel like I’m breaking into my own house. Especially the people inside the house.” This reminds us of yet another hidden incorrect assumption we make: just as not all Jewish are the hugging community type, not all Jews are white Eastern European — the stereotype the media has created of Jews. Not all Jews are Semitic (which is why one writes “antisemitism”, not “anti-Semitism”). Jews can come from all ethnicities; further, non-white Jews are not all converts. Jewish communities have existed around the globe for centuries, and we should not question or make assumptions about people of color in our congregations. Especially we should not assume based on gender. This woman wrote about visiting a congregation with her non-Jewish white boyfriend, “As soon as we walked in, I started feeling like an accessory. This was a superprogressive synagogue, and I wasn’t the only person of color in the congregation. But the way people greeted him first, always; the way someone explained to me what to expect of the service (It will be an hour long with portions in Hebrew and English); the way an usher smiled and asked me, not my boyfriend, What brings you here?

If, as progressive Jews, we envision our sanctuaries as safe, welcoming spaces, we must recognize that Jews come not only in all shapes and sizes, but in all varieties of skin colors and genders. They all have their different comfort levels about community, and we must grow in sensitivity to be aware of this. We must figure out ways to be welcoming without causing pain, welcoming without preconceived assumptions. Only in that way can we create in our congregations a tent of welcoming, and more importantly, a culture that welcomes.

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Experience and Demeanor — A Message to Trump Supporters

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Oct 13, 2016 @ 11:38 am PST

userpic=political-buttonsThis is a message for all my readers who are still — for whatever reason — supporting Donald Trump. I would like to present two reasons for you to reconsider that choice: experience and demeanor.


As I wrote in my post where I endorsed Clinton, she hands down has the most and best experience: “She has an experience as an executive, from running the State Department. She knows intimately the demands of the office of President, having been First Lady. She has been in the legislature, having been Senator from New York. She hasn’t been a judge, but she is an attorney, so she knows the law. She knows foreign policy, having been Secretary of State and having negotiated with world leaders. ”

But what about Donald Trump. He has never held elected office, he has never negotiated with world leaders, he has never worked in a legislature, and he is not a lawyer. He has only been a top-level executive in the corporate world. To some, this is a plus, but it really is extremely bad. As an executive in his companies, which have been privately held, he had full power. He could hire and fire at will, and set corporate direction without having to consult and win the approval of governing boards. In fact, if the boards said no, he could fire the offending board members. As President, this is not true. A President has extremely limited authority. For almost everything, the President has to obtain approval of Congress — and that means demonstrating the ability to work with both sides, even those he does not like.  His appointments might not be approved, and his policies may be changed or modified by Congress.

A President also has to work within the legal confines of the office. He has demonstrated here, through his remarks, that he doesn’t understand this. His constant claims that Clinton wants to repeal the 2nd Amendment demonstrates that he doesn’t understand how amendments are either ratified or repealed. His argument that she should have been able to, as Senator, change tax law also demonstrates lack of understanding of the office: Revenue bills must originate in the House, and a single Senator does not have the ability to either originate a revenue bill nor ensure its passage. His call for a special prosecutor for Clinton ignores the fact that special prosecutors are called by Congress, and must operate within the rules of evidence. In fact, his constant calls that Clinton is guilty misunderstands the proof that is required in a courtroom. His threats to sue newspapers for making negative reports on him demonstrate a misunderstanding of the 1st amendment. His bringing up claims that Clinton was wrong for defending a rapist demonstrates he does not understand the 6th amendment.

Trump has not worked within our political system, and has demonstrated that he neither knows how it works, or knows the constitutional limitations of his office. Indeed, he does not understand what the Constitution actually says, he appears to know only what he’s read on the Internet. He simply does not have the experience and knowledge for the job.

Clinton, on the other hand, does. Disagree with her policies if you will, but the best way to fight those policies is to elect House and Senate members that are congruent with your views who will work the way you want in Congress. Clinton has demonstrated the ability to work with Congress and find a middle ground. That will not happen with Trump. In terms of experience, you should vote for Clinton and the down-ticket candidates with whom you agree.


Let’s turn now to Trump’s demeanor — what some call his temperament. Further, for this discussion, let’s set aside his racism, sexism, and all the other -isms he embodies. Yes, they are horrible. Yes, it appears that he uses his power to make sexual advancements against women (which might be harassment in many contexts). Yes, it appears that either the candidate or his supporters are racist or antisemitic, and he does not denounce such behavior. Ignore all of that. Set it aside, as many of his supporters do. For if you ignore all of it, he still doesn’t have the right demeanor for the office. Here’s why:

He doesn’t put his brain in gear before he puts his mouth in motion.

A President, in public speech, must be measured. What you say is important, and how you say it is even more important. Words must be chosen carefully, and be chosen to convey and exact unambiguous meaning. Trump simply does not do this. He speaks off the cuff, and seemingly has no filters in what he says. He tweets at all hours, and those tweets are not reviewed. He often says things that are misinterpreted. He speaks without thinking, and then has to scramble to apologize for it later. He does not realize when his words are being recorded, and that they might be used against him later.

Although in a candidate this may be refreshing, in a President, they can start a nuclear war.

Now, add back in Trump’s attitude and speech towards women. Consider what happens if he slips up with a female head of state or prime minister, or makes a pass at the Duchess of Cambridge. What happens when his stereotypical attitudes erupt during a formal meeting with mid-east leaders. When he calls Hispanics names when meeting with a Latin American dignitary. Will it be easily excused, or an international incident?

Clinton has been cast as cold and calculating. That may be the case, but that is what you want in a President. You want a President that thinks before she speaks, that considers the possible impacts of what she is saying and how she is saying it before it ever leaves her mouth. The last thing you want is a President who has to apologize for saying something that is stupid, or that was interpreted the wrong way. Whether you like what Trump says or not, you must agree that he does not always think about the consequences before saying something. That is dangerous, for the leader of the free world.


Donald Trump simply does not have the knowledge of the position, the experience, or the demeanor to be President. Hillary Clinton does, but (at least to you) she has policies that you don’t like, and you don’t trust her. So what should you do that is best for the country?

The answer is simple.

Vote for Hillary Clinton as the only candidate with the right experience and demeanor. Then… vote for congressional and senate candidates with whom you agree, and who will represent your position in Congress and hold Clinton’s “feet to the fire” for your views. That is why we have Congress, and that is why we have a President with limited constitutional authority.

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The Erosion of Trust

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Oct 12, 2016 @ 9:33 am PST

userpic=observationsI wish I knew who to blame.

Ever since I read “Denial”, I’ve been talking about the convergence of the facts. That we must go where the facts tell us; facts are not swayed by opinion. Facts just are, they are true, they point the way.

Alas, there’s a big problem with that. A gigantic problem. A yugggge problem. No one trusts the facts anymore.

I wish I knew who to blame. I can point to various culprits. Fox News is a big one, having introduced the notion of putting a particular political spin or slant on the news. As such, many people started discounting news from that source. Another culprit is the financial decline of print media, which forced newspapers to eliminate many editorial positions, including fact checkers and editors. As such, newspapers were no longer bastions of truth, but often presented the news either inaccurately or with particular political slants. Yet another culprit is the Internet, which has allowed anyone and everyone (including moi) to become a publisher, resulting in even more biased or slanted news sources camouflaging themselves as the truth. As such, people chose their curated news source without seeing the bias, and thus refusing to believe any other. The Internet is a culprit in yet another way, by creating echo chambers for news. As such, people don’t even realize they aren’t seeing the full stories or only selected sources that they “like”. A final culprit? The growing distrust of authority in society, making even the formerly reliable news sources now untrustworthy, whether that particular appellation is deserved or not. As such, authoritative papers of records or fact checking sources are now not trusted.

Whatever the culprit, people no longer believe the facts. And that, dear friends and readers, has brought us to where we are today. A society that has given us Donald Trump, and the lies he spreads as facts. It has given us a populace that no longer believes in science; it views science as merely an opinion. It has given us a populace that no longer believes in objective historical fact; it discounts historical facts unless they have been processed by a particular spin.

I could cite numerous examples of the result of this. Climate change deniers. Anti-vaxxers. Conspiracy theorists.

What brought this to a head for me was a discussion prompted by “And Hillary Clinton laughed at a 10 year old who was raped.” This is a particular like that has been promoted by the right wing media, by the Trump news establishment, by the establishment that has ignored facts consistently to build up a picture of Hillary as a demon. A media market that has played the populace just like the antisemitic media in Germany painted the picture that it was the Jews who were responsible for all of Germany’s problems. With today’s media, of course, it isn’t just the Jews. It is those demon Clintons and the liberal establishment.

Because of the distrust of the media, the folks to whom I indicated that statement was wrong did not believe me. You see, I had cited Snopes (which now seems to have a fake-“you’re infected” warning), and Snopes (of course)  is a conspiracy of the left. Of course, there are multiple sources pointing out the same thing:

Note that the ABC News article is from 2014, well before this year’s campaign.

What are the facts that all these sources agree upon? Clinton did not take the case willingly; the court appointed her based on the 6th Amendment’s guarantee that all parties in a case are entitiled to legal representation.  Getting the rapist off? She actually didn’t; she got a plea bargain to a shorter sentence because the prosecution mishandled the evidence, making it suspect. The laughter, not at the victim, but at the prosecution for being sloppy with the evidence, and at the polygraphs for not being as reliable as juries believe they are.

The same people who disbelieve the news believe what they are told: that Clinton was responsible for strongly defending the rapist, even though she knew he was guilty. Never mind the fact that a lawyer in a trial has a legal obligation to defend their client to the best of their abilities, even if they may know that are guilty of the crime. This is especially true when they are a court-appointed legal counsel — they have no choice, no ability to opt out of defending the person. And guess what: if you were that person — perhaps wrongly accused — wouldn’t you want your lawyer to give you the best defense possible. Our country has the legal standard of innocent until proven guilty, and that is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Today, we no longer look at multiple facts to draw our conclusion. We no longer trust our news sources, relying instead on the court of public opinion, on memes that circulate on the Internet, on the small set of sources that we “trust” despite their slant.

This political season has been built on a scaffolding of lies and innuendo, much of it built by the right wing establishment against the Clintons (Bengahzi, Email Servers, Rape, Murders), and to a lesser extent against Trump by the left-wing media establishment. People have become so ensconced in their lies they no longer recognize fact checking from neutral media. They no longer look at where the bulk of the evidence points.

When news services across the political spectrum denounce Trump and endorse Clinton, when pundits and politicians across the political spectrum denounce Trump and endorse Clinton, when there is almost universal acknowledgement that the stories going around about Clinton are patently false — these should people people to a particular conclusion. But when their leader — Donald Trump — denounces all these sources and individuals as the product of a conspiracy against them, and as a result people no longer believe them, well, there’s the biggest danger to our democracy. The erosion of trust in our media, because you can never disprove a conspiracy theory. We have a society that has become susceptible to demagogues, believing unquestioning what they are told, instead of checking for themselves.

Get it through your head: Our mainstream media — major television channels, major market newspapers (not tabloids), and such, are trustworthy. Further, checking a variety of sources and seeing the bulk of them pointing to the same conclusion should further support the theory that the conclusion is right. Believing multiple fringe sources that all bend their reporting should make one suspicious.


Just after posting this, I see one of my extreme conservative friends on FB post the following:

Folks, the Constitution enshrines Freedom Of The Press so that it may freely inform the public of the abuses, lawlessness and tyranny of our government when it becomes corrupt.

But what are we to do when the Press itself becomes just as corrupt, giving itself over to the regime in order to deceive the people to accept despotism, rather than guard against it?

Now you see why I’m worried? When our mainstream media is viewed as corrupt, when people believe mainstream media deceives — that is the opportunity that demagogues and despots pounce upon, for then they can convince people of anything. Perhaps one source is corrupt. Multiple mainstream sources, doing independent reporting, are trustworthy.

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Average Privilege | Size is Relative

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Sep 16, 2016 @ 11:42 am PST

userpic=chicken-and-eggHave you ever wondered where our clothing sizes come from? I’m not talking about sizes that are clearly measurements, such as waist size, but the more relative sizes: small, medium, large, extra (excuse me, “xtra”) large, and so on. What about women’s sizes, which aren’t even consistent from store to store? A number of articles this week have made me think about this subject, as well as the connection to a recent podcast on a similar subject.

Let’s talk about the podcast first. On a recent 99% Invisible (which looks at hidden aspects of design), an exploration was made of the history of the notion of the average, and especially the average in terms of sizing. It is well worth a listen (it is one of my favorite short podcasts). It points out how the first notion of average size was from a survey done of Scottish soldiers, which showed that the average chest size of these soldiers was 39 and three-quarters inches.  This was deemed as the ideal size, and shortly thereafter, the notion of being the average became the ideal.  Here’s an interesting quote from the transcript that explains where our notions of Small, Medium, and Large came from (Quetelet was the fellow that did the Scottish study):

Lincoln, after a series of losses to the Confederacy, realized he needed more information about the Union army. He ordered a massive study to assess the soldiers physically and mentally, and, in strict adherence to Quetelet’s science, calculated averages of just about everything. These averages began to inform the distribution of food rations, the design of weapons, even the fit of military uniforms.

Before the Civil War, uniforms were custom-sewn. In this war, however, such a massive number of people had to be outfitted that uniforms needed to be mass produced. But they couldn’t all be one floppy size. Soldiers were put into subtypes: large, medium, and small—classifications that eventually found their way to civilian clothing.

This study found its way to the Army, where in 1926, when the Army designed its first airplane cockpit, they measured the physical dimensions of male pilots and calculated the average measurement of their height, weight, arm-length and other dimensions. The results determined the size and shape of the seat, the distance to the pedals and the stick, and even the shape of the flight helmets. This mean that, in part, pilots were selected based on their ability to fit into the cockpit designed for the average 1920s man. This fell apart in WWII, when suddenly pilots were dying, and the cause eventually turned out to be: the average size aircraft. This led to the ability to adjust seats and wheels (which made its way to cars), into the study of ergometrics, and so forth.

So we now see that S M L XL came from Civil War measurements (to this very day), but what about women’s clothing. This brings us to the articles I saw this week:

  • The Average Sized American Woman. You would think, with the notion of S, M, L, and so forth, the average woman would be in the “regular” size clothes, probably on the order of and 8-10 (given the bottom of the range is 0-2, and by 14 you are into the euphemistic “plus size”). Think again: The average American woman is not a size 14 anymore. Size 14, which would likely be a L, being the average came from an outdated study. A new study published in August in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education decided to create a more current report.What the study found was that size 14 is no longer accurate; the average American woman today is actually between a size 16 to 18.The authors of the study looked at recent data from the Center for Disease Control and compared it to the ASTM International body measurements for “misses” and “women’s plus-size” clothing for a sample of more than 5,500 women in the US who are at least 20 years old.The authors found that the average American woman’s waist circumference has increased 2.6″ (from 34.9″ to 37.5″) over the last 21 years, which accounts for the increase in clothing size. While 16-18 was the average size for all women, the study found that Black women in particular currently wear a size 18-20 on average.All this to say that the size-14 average is no longer accurate.  The average size is a plus size.
  • Plus Size Shopping Ain’t Easy. An interesting Vox opinion piece discusses the difficulty of plus size shopping. Its hypothesis is that the whole idea of “plus-size” clothes is outdated and degrading. It notes this weeks Washington Post op-ed by design guru Tim Gunn, where he blasted the fashion industry’s unwillingness to “make clothes to fit American women” — specifically plus-size women. This is because, despite the increase in size of the average American woman, many clothing designers and merchandisers still refuse to produce anything larger than a 12. Larger sizes are shuffled off into separate stores, separate departments (often physically separated from the rest of woman’s clothes). As the opinion author writes: “This is demoralizing for plus-size women — but it’s also one reason why clothes shopping can be so demoralizing for all women. We need women’s clothing sizes that make sense, and they shouldn’t be segregated into normal or plus or petite. Sizes should just be sizes.” I’m familiar with this first hand: for much of my married life, my wife has been plus sized, and I’ve seen this first hand (she’s gotten down to just below my weight, so she’s in the lower end of the range now). I’ve seen the segregation and the dearth of good looking clothes as she hunts to find something. There’s also some segregation for larger men, but it is no where near the shaming that goes on for women.
  • And Speaking of Fat Shaming… The last interesting article asks the question: Is it only acceptable to call out instances of “fat-shaming” when you’re not fat yourself? In other words, if an actress who is not visibly obese is called out for being “fat”, and she rails about the fat shaming nature of fans or the business, she goes viral. But if the same shaming occurs to a visibly obese woman, and she calls out the shaming, how is the obese woman regarded? Is she a hero? The opinion author writes: «So while stopping body-shaming is an admirable goal, we need to think beyond the individual level if we want to actually dismantle fatphobia and stop fat-shaming. And that includes supporting women of every size with the same enthusiasm we use to cheer when a size-6 celebrity charmingly dismisses a hater who calls her fat on Instagram. It means changing our responses from “But she’s not even fat!” to “It’s OK to be fat.”» Related to this, I’ll call your attention to a very interesting episode of the podcast This American Life from back in June, which explored the question of fat. In Act One of the podcast, Lindsey West talks about finding pride in her fat, and dealing with her boss and friend who decided to fat-shame women on his podcast. It is well worth a listen to see the impact of fat shaming and pride.

So how do we perceive the average? Do we assume — despite all the diversity in society in size, weight, shape, color, and everything else — that there is some sort special beauty in being “average”? Some benefit? You might say that there isn’t — after all, this isn’t like racism — but you would be wrong. Listen to Act Two of the This American Life previously mentioned. It demonstrates how people — especially women — are perceived differently when they lose weight. With recent dialogue, we’re well aware of the meaning of “white privilege”, and aware of the hidden discrimination that comes with being a person of color. But privilege and hidden discrimination isn’t just a skin color issue. It can go with nationality, it can go with religion, and yes, it can some with size. The links and stories above (as well as the remaining acts in the This American Life) are clear demonstrations of “average privilege” and size discrimination occurs in our society.

P.S.: After I posted this, a friend happened to post a link that is also relevant about the measurement known as BMI and why it is bullshit. I seem to recall one of the podcasts touching upon a similar notion — in particular, that BMI is as much a fallacy as the notion of an “average” size.

P.P.S.: Here’s another related link posted in the day-after window: 11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone. The article is about concern trolling – which is the act of a person participating “in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause”. Interesting read in relation to the above and the fat shaming already going on in society.

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Needling (Anti)Vaxxers About Risk (or This Isn’t Your Father’s 11/780)

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Aug 29, 2016 @ 11:51 am PST

userpic=mad-scientistWhat’s this I hear about people being anti-Vax? Don’t they realize that without the Vax, and its older sibling, the PDP 11, there might not have been the Internet as we know it? I mean, Unix was developed for the Vaxxen. Oh, wait, I wanted to write about a different Vax. Nevermind.

Seriously, now that we’re past that bad but obligatory pun, I’d like to talk to you about a different sort of “vax” — vaccines, and their well-publicized opposition, the “anti-vaxxers”. These folks have been in the news lately because of a recently enacted California law that requires parents to vaccinate their children except when medically-contraindicated (no exemption for belief or parent choice), and a Federal Judge upholding that law. Do a search on the Internet related to that law, and you are overwhelmed by the anti-vax opposition sites, such as this one, masquerading as an information site. Closer to home, the subject is on my mind because of a recent discussion with a relative who is in the anti-vax camp, where she asked if she was anti-science because she was skeptical of many things such as the planethood of Pluto, the accuracy of meteorologists, and science’s disbelief (until recently) about the value of the microbiome. This particular post was prompted by a “Fuck You Anti-Vaxxer” rant a different friend posted, which made me realize that a more reasoned screen was necessary.

Let’s work through this and some of the arguments together. The BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) is that being an anti-vaxxer is not necessarily being anti-science, but it is a clear demonstration of how humans want to blame something or someone when something goes wrong, how humans have difficulty separating correlation and causality, and how bad we are at judging and assessing risk. When properly assessed, the best way that a parent can reduce risk for their child is to ensure they are vaccinated.


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Leading By Example

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Aug 20, 2016 @ 11:52 am PST

userpic=political-buttonsBefore I write my long omnibus news chum (because things have been accumulating), a political thought of the day.

I’ve just had a long political discussion over on Facebook after a Conservative friend posted the meme that is going around about how Obama attacked Bush for flying over the flooding in Louisiana, and now he is staying on vacation instead of being on-site. I’m sure you’ve seen it. I, rightfully,  pointed out that the Governor of Louisiana had specifically requested that the President stay away until things had calmed down, and that the President had been directing broad scale aid while on vacation. They responded that at least Donald Trump had gone on-site with a full trailor-tractor of supplies and personally handed them out (‡ – See ETA below); to which I responded that this was specifically against the Governor’s request that Trump not come on site and disrupt relief efforts. I equated Trump’s effort to Eva Peron in “Evita”, with a relief fund that just helped a few, instead of broad based relief. This drove me to investigate Hillary Clinton’s response, which was to not visit the area, but to request her supporters to make donations to relief efforts. To complete the picture, both Stein and Johnson just used the situation to criticize Obama. [ETA: Here’s a good summary of why there is no comparison.]

Two important qualities in a President are leadership and compassion, and I give all of our major candidates a C rating, and our third-party candidates a D rating. I give Obama an A-/B+ rating.

Leadership, in this situation, is getting broad effective relief to the people who need it, in a timely fashion. It is also recognizing that this is just one of many disasters in our nation; in particular, the West is being hit with a bunch of significant wildfires that are also affecting people’s lives. Leadership is setting an example, and that example is not running headfirst into a disaster area to do what you think is right against the wishes of those in charge of relief efforts. How did our candidates do:

  • Trump rushed headlong into the disaster area against the wishes of officials, did not serve as a leadership example through a sizable personal donation or coordinate significant relief, did not (to my knowledge) encourage donations, and only focused on one disaster. He did handout some relief supplies. Rating: C. [‡: ETA: Then again, reports are now coming out that Trump didn’t actually donate anything.]
  • Clinton did not go to the disaster area, following the recommendations of officials. She encouraged donations, but didn’t serve as a leadership example by making a donation or coordinating significant relief. She only focused on one disaster. Rating: C
  • Stein and Johnson only criticized the President. Rating: D.
  • Obama coordinated significant relief efforts, and did not plan to visit the area until the Governor said it was prudent. As President, he doesn’t have access to personal funds to make a personal donation. He did sign a declaration that provides significant long-term help. He hasn’t discussed the wildfires or relief there. Rating: A-/B+

Compassion, in this situation, is demonstrating you care. It is showing, in a public way, that you are concerned about their problems.

  • Trump showed compassion by visiting people, although there was an offsetting lack of compassion by interfering with relief efforts and putting his potential photo-op ahead of relief.
  • Clinton showed compassion by calling for donations and staying away, but she didn’t visibly do more.
  • Stein and Johnson did nothing.
  • Obama showed compassion through statements, but created a discompassionate image by remaining on vacation. At minimum, he could have returned to the White House to coordinate relief efforts for the day. Of course, the reality is that he could coordinate those relief efforts equally well from vacation, but in this case the image is more powerful than the reality, and the President must be aware of the image that is being conveyed.

So, we’ve seen that no one is perfect in terms of leadership. Except, perhaps, you. How are you going to be a leadership example?

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I’m Tired of Repeating Myself / Changing the Focus to the Issues

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Aug 10, 2016 @ 7:41 pm PST

userpic=obama-hillary-california,politicsLast night, while answering the same questions on Hillary Clinton’s character, I realized that I’m tired of this shit. So, for one last time, here are the answers:

  • Does Hillary Clinton lie? Yes. She’s a human being and a diplomat and a politician. By definition, there are times that she lies. I don’t think you can find a human being that doesn’t lie. But that’s not the question you should ask. We can’t just vote for anyone for President — so finding perfection is out — we have to vote for a candidate on the ballot. And, of the major party candidates, Hillary lies the least. Politifact, an independent organization, did a survey and said so. In fact, they compared all the major party candidates running for office in the last few years, and the only one who lied less than Hillary was Obama. The truth is that Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest. No, she’s not perfect, but she’s honest within normal human parameters. As for Donald Trump, it appears he has no problem lying when he is the one doing it.
  • But what about Bengazhi and the Email Server? What about them? Let’s start with Bengazhi. Politicians take actions all the time that indirectly result in deaths. Be they sending our soldiers into war, be they withholding medical funds, be they determining where a budget goes and doesn’t go. That doesn’t make the politician legally liable for the death. There has to be a direct connection between the politicians actions and the death, such as German officials during WWII that directly ordered deaths. Further, in the case of funding of embassies, funding is determined by Congress, not the Department of State, who put the funds in various budget categories. If they cut the overall budget for embassy funding, there is little that the Secretary of State can do. There is no court in law that would find the Secretary of State legally liable for those deaths. As for the email server and classified information, there are some fundamental facts that people who handle classified information understand. First, having an email that is classified after the fact is not an infraction. You delete it when the determination is made and move on. Sending a classified email involves two parties: the sender and the recipient. The sender would get an infraction for sending after the recipient reports it. No one reported Clinton for sending classified emails, and Clinton never reported anyone for sending her a classified email. That’s pretty indicative of whether there was a problem. There wasn’t. The FBI, in fact, has said the emails weren’t classified after all. These were low level scheduling emails, improperly marked. Further, her use of a personal email server wasn’t illegal under the rules in effect at the time. Now, contrast the level of this violation with the other candidates. Mr. Trump has called for a foreign country to interfere in US elections, and has called for people to assassinate government officers — but then shrugged it off as a joke. He has vowed to take retaliatory actions against those who oppose him. He has vowed to violate treaties which the US has signed. Which level of violation is within normal parameters, and which isn’t? Hillary has shown some poor judgement, but is extremely unlikely to repeat that poor judgement if elected. Can you say that about Trump?  Perhaps that is why prominent cybersecurity experts have endorsed Clinton.
  • She’s a criminal, right? Let’s start with the key aspect: to be a criminal, you must commit a crime and be found guilty by a court of law — not the court of public opinion. Our system of jurisprudence presumes that an accused is considered to be innocent until they are proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, to have violated the letter of the law. Not what we think the law says. Not heresay or innuendo. Facts beyond a reasonable doubt against the letter of the law. For all of the investigations that have been done, there has not been a prosecutor that has found sufficient evidence to convene a jury, conduct a trial, and get a guilty verdict. This is why Comey said what he said at the hearings: there is insufficient evidence to prosecute and win. Therefore, under the law, she is innocent.
  • So I’ll vote for a third-party candidate to bring change. Voting for third party candidates is fine at anything below the Presidential election, where majority voting rules. Senator, Congresscritter, state office, local office — I’ll say go for it. That’s where the real change begins. But for President, the system defined in the Constitution and by the states makes voting for a third-party problematic, unless you have a chance of getting a majority in a state. Most states are winner take all, and thus voting for a third-party risks taking votes away from the bum you could tolerate, and giving your state’s electoral votes to the bum you don’t like. Can you afford to risk that? If you are not in a swing state where the election is close, probably. In a swing state like FL, OH, PA, or others? Think very carefully. Oh, and by the way, both Johnson (L) and Stein (G) are equally batshit crazy. Yes, that’s a technical term.

Face the facts: There are a large number of people that like Hillary Clinton, and don’t believe all the stories against her.  They realize that the stories were manufactured because of two things about Hillary: She’s a woman, and she’s married to Bill Clinton. For many of the people that do not, no recitation of the facts will change their minds. Still others have realized that all the candidates are flawed, but Hillary is the only candidate that is flawed within normal parameters. They know that the best option for the country is to elect Hillary, and to elect a congress to make sure she does the right thing. Even folks who disagree with Hillary on social issues — such as abortion — are realizing she is the best suited temperamentally to be President.

Now, that I’ve said all that, I want you to look back over all the political news you have been reading. Look at your Facebook feeds. Look at your RSS feeds and your blog posts. Look at your newspapers and opinion pieces. Do you notice that something is missing? Everything you read is about the candidate’s character and their flaws. Maybe because we have a candidate that is “Full Monty”-ing his lack of character, and exposing his real shortcomings, not the imagined ones related to his hands. What’s missing, however, is any discussion of the candidate’s positions.

I challenge you. Go beyond the fact the other candidates don’t have the temperament or decorum to be President, and look at their positions (link is to a great summary chart, with only one error — Hillary’s position regarding student debt). I think when you actually look into the positions, you’ll see that Clinton’s are quite good — and paid for without deficit spending. Trump’s, on the other hand, would diminish the US economy. Clinton has realistic proposals with details; Trump’s are vague and unfunded. I have looked at Clinton’s positions on the issues, and I like what I see.

So, here’s my challenge. Let’s make the discussion about issues. Let’s demonstrate why Hillary’s proposals are stronger, and the other candidates’ proposals are economically disastrous for the country, and will create more insecurity. This political battle is about more than just character (although that is a big part) — Hillary is not only the better candidate, but has the better positions — positions that derive from her experience, her listening, and yes, the input from all the folks that “Felt the Bern”. Let’s talk about them.

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Two Big Problems in a Political Summer

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Aug 03, 2016 @ 10:08 am PST

userpic=political-flakesThis political summer, there are two big problems that I’ve seen. No, I’m not talking about the candidates themselves. I happen to be a strong Clinton supporter, but for those who aren’t, well, please heed the words of PJ O’Roarke.

No, the problems that I see are (a) the Trump supporters; and (b) a failure at the DNC.

The problem with the Trump supporters is that they have been so convinced by the Republican media-machine of the guilt of Hillary Clinton that they can no longer think critically and reason for themselves. They can’t see the flaws in their candidate. They are so angry at the political establishment that they would rather blow it up. They are, essentially, political terrorists, playing into the hands of terrorist leaders and demagogues. It is not good for our country, but they have been wound up so tightly with hate that they don’t care. This is the same thing that ISIS does with hatred for the west, and it may very well produce the same level of carnage in this country if it succeeds. More significantly, their minds are so closed they can’t see the bill of goods they have been sold. Not only is their candidate much much worse than he has been portrayed, but the Democratic candidate does not have the level of corruption and deceit that the Trump-supporting media has been stating. Independent assessors have actually pointed out that she is the most honest candidate, and all of the “corruption” investigations — including the email message — are more smoke than substance.

On the other side, the DNC failed to address the above. Oh, they addressed the problems with Trump. What they needed, however, was to have Clinton come out and straightforwardly address all the lies that have been circulated about her, demonstrating that there is nothing there. Bengazi — nothing. Email scandal — nothing. Clinton Foundation — nothing. Cronyism — nothing. But by not directly addressing the issues, they permit the rumors to live. No, they won’t be able to convince the Trump stalwarts. But they might be able to convince the Sanders supporters and the third-party supporters that Clinton isn’t the corrupt politician she’s been made out to be. They might be able to reach the folks that would vote for her, “if she wasn’t so corrupt.”

This election is one where much of our problems can be placed squarely on the media and its obsession for eyeballs. Trump may be a horrible candidate, one of the worst presidential candidates ever — but he is entertaining and draws the eyeballs to the media. This improves ratings, and helps the media companies. Clinton? She’s never been an exciting candidate or a moving speaker, and is very cautious — and so doesn’t make the mistakes and gaffes that get into the news. Why cover her strengths?

We need to figure out a way for people to think critically. To look at what Trump is doing and his history critically. What is in his tax returns? Why have all his businesses failed? What does his notion of having Ben Carson and Sarah Palin as his foreign policy advisors say about his judgement?

On the other side, for those so upset at Clinton’s emails, ask yourself this: If she was sending classified information against State Dept policy, then why didn’t the recipient’s report receiving the mails? That’s a requirement as well. The answer is that it wasn’t a problem — it was normal practice at the State Department, which does things differently than the DOD. If there was something clearly at the level of prosecution, it would have been prosecuted by now. The evidence of anything other than occasional poor judgement is just not there.

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