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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Religion & faith in politics - the good and "not so much"

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”- John Wesley/Hilary Clinton
The Apostle Matthew wrote (Matthew 7 1-3): For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged....
Image result for faith in politics graphic
But, if a political candidate puts faith in their biographies then it's fair for us to comment on their qualifications to do so.
In other words, I'm not qualified to make a judgement about the spiritual life or religious faithfulness of political candidates, even when they happen to include their faith beliefs in their biographies. On the other hand, when this information is released in their political press releases, then I feel it's okay to provide my opinion about the depth of their religiosity. Obviously, I don't want to offend St. Matthew, but if he were alive today, I'd take a chance that he would, likewise, have an opinion about how political candidates represent their faith.

"Romney 'Good'..." weeeelll, in the end he didn't carry the majority:
In my opinion, Governor Mitt Romney, for example, proudly represented the sincerity of faithful Mormons, or members of the Church of Latter Day Saints.  

Probably, what lost Romney the 2012 presidential election, in my opinion, was his inability to garner the confidence of the right wing radical Republican base. They are fanatics and, in my opinion, certifiable "wackos".  If they had supported Governor Romney, he might have won the election but we'll never know for sure.

"Biden is 'Good'"
In 2008, Joe Biden said that while others may talk about his faith, he seldom does, instead driven by his Irish upbringing to allow his actions to speak for themselves. Vice President Biden and his family are proud to live their Roman Catholic faith and I believe he would have been an exceptionally well qualified President. Unfortunately, family bereavement, following the untimely death of their son "Beau", precluded him from running for President.
"Ryan 'not so much'"
Four years later, Paul Ryan was greeted with a chorus of criticism in 2012, for his interpretation of Catholic social teaching to justify a budget proposal that included deep cuts in programs assisting the poor. (Speaker Paul Ryan is the same Catholic VP candidate who washed clean dishes in a St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen, when they were already clean, just for the photo op.)
"Senator Kaine - 'Excellent'!"
Senator Tim Kaine is the third Catholic to appear on a presidential ticket in the past two election cycles, all VP nominees. (Current Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence was raised Catholic but now identifies as an evangelical Christian).  Senator Kaine gave up a potentially lucrative law career to serve the poor in Honduras. He chose to be a dedicated public servant, rather than a highly paid lawyer.
Senator Kaine received his B.A. in economics from the University of Missouri in 1979, completing his degree in three years and graduating summa cum laude. He entered Harvard Law School in 1979, interrupting his law studies after his first year to work in Honduras for nine months from 1980 to 1981, helping Jesuit missionaries who ran a Catholic school in El Progreso.While running a vocational center that taught carpentry and welding, he also helped increase the school's enrollment by recruiting local villagers. Kaine is fluent in Spanish as a result of his year in Honduras.

After returning from Honduras, Kaine met his future wife, first-year Harvard Law student, Anne Holton. He graduated from Harvard Law School with a J.D. degree in 1983.Kaine and Holton moved to Holton's hometown of Richmond, Virginia, after graduation,and Kaine was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 1984.

"Governor Pence: 'not so much'" (In fact, gets a "D")
Anybody who claims to be "evangelical" but then doesn't follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, can't be considered Christian, just because he says so. Clearly, Jesus accepted the poor, the humble masses, healed the sick and did not discriminate based on a person's socio-economic status ie "immigrants".  
"Hillary Clinton:  'Good'": In my opinion, I admire Secretary Clinton's faith motto, a quote from John Wesley (1703-1791), the Anglican cleric and theologian who, with his brother Charles and fellow cleric George Whitefield, are credited with the foundation of Methodism: Image result
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
When candidates talk the religious talk and "walk the walk", it's a testament, in my opinion, to their sincerity. Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Tim Kaine, in my opinion, are a duo of "good" religious politicians who outshine the others who lined up in recent campaigns, because they live their core spiritual values and they do not pander to the "wackos" on either side of the political spectrum of self righteous people who want to force their extremism on the general population.  Of course, Secretary Clinton and Senator Tim Kaine must motivate their followers to vote in mass, plus, at the same time, convince others to follow their progressive leadership. Otherwise, they can be among those who are "good", but not good enough to be elected. Let's convince voters to elect Clinton, and Kaine, two highly qualified candidates, who bring progressive religion and faith into their admirable political values. 

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Conspiracy theories 2016 contribute to The Big Lie

"...those in power can actually act on their wild hunches..." Joseph Uscinski in Politico Magazine.  
This article is like a huge neon Danger sign....wake up!

Image result for Danger neon sign graphic
Donald Trump built his political brand on larger than life vaudevillian bravado where he spews lies. In fact, truth appears to leave the room when Donald Trump enters. He's a master of communicating The Big Lie theory of political discourse. In other words, Trump tells so many big lies that it's virtually imposible to keep track of all of them. Consequently, many of the lies go unanswered and fall into the margin of incredulous believability.  

Conspiracy theories fall into The Big Lie pattern.  Joseph Uscinski wrote about the danger of conspiracy theory communications. The problem is, of course, will voters demand for the lies and conspiracy theories to stop? In oher words, where are Trump's plans and vision? Rather than explain his positions,Trump negatively entertains voters with lies and conspiracies without having to explain his wacko reasoning.

Uscinski wrote, "....former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Fox News Sunday viewers that Hillary Clinton was seriously ill. The media, he said, “fails to point out several signs of illness by her. … Go online. Search for ‘Hillary Clinton illness.’ Take a look at those videos for yourself.”

The idea that Clinton is secretly wrestling with some unknown illness is just the latest conspiracy theory to go mainstream in an election season chock full of them. Conspiracy theories, which Uscinski studied for the past seven years, has always been part of American politics, but they’ve tended to pop up in the dark corners of political discourse, serving mainly as sideshows to more important political disputes. 

Not so this year; Uscinski said he's never seen a time when conspiracy theories dominated the mainstream debate—and when they had the potential to do so much harm.

Whether it was witches colluding with Satan during colonial times, Freemasons nefariously controlling the government in the 1800s or communists coopting the State Department during the Red Scare, Americans have always been drawn to the idea that certain people or organizations are working in secret for their own benefit against the public good. Polls suggest that all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory; most believe in several. 

At the height of birtherism a few years ago, about a quarter of Americans believed that President Barack Obama was born outside the United States. A similar number believed there was a conspiracy behind the terror attacks of 9/11. More than 50 years after the fact, a majority of Americans continue to believe that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was due to a conspiracy rather than to a lone gunman. In 2012, when I asked a representative sample of Americans to agree or disagree with the following statement, “Big events like wars, the current recession, and the outcomes of elections are controlled by small groups of people who are working in secret against the rest of us,” only 30 percent disagreed.

Despite this, the United States has not gone off the conspiracy theory cliff because our elite politicians and mainstream news sources generally eschew this type of heady theorizing. A few politicians or news sources might allege a plot from time to time (think Sarah Palin and her Obamacare death panels), but these are usually a result of overheated partisan rhetoric and they tend to receive intense backlash.

That was, until now. Donald Trump has been propagating, and now creating, conspiracy theories as a major theme of his campaign.

There’s an obvious reason for this: Donald Trump has branded himself an “outsider.” In my research, I have found that conspiracy theories tend to work best when they are employed by outsiders, electoral losers and statistical minorities. These “losers” have to use conspiracy theories to justify their outsider status, explain away losses and call accepted practices into question. 

If you want to explain why you want to tear the accepted system down in favor of a new approach or if you want to enter the White House without ever being part of the political establishment, then it is fitting to use conspiracy theories to call that system into question.

As for Clinton, the environment created by two outsiders—Sanders and Trump—has forced her to respond in kind. She is under pressure to give lip service to Sanders’ economic conspiracy theories in order to attract his supporters. And she has also been forced her to push back on Trump’s conspiracy theories about her with conspiracy charges of her own.

Maybe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with conspiracy theories. Sometimes they turn out to be true (think Watergate, for example), and sometimes they bring new information to light (such as securing the release of many documents pertaining to the Kennedy assassination). But too many can distort our perception of reality, squander precious government time and resources and endanger lives—especially when they move out of the fringes of political life and become the currency of the truly powerful.

Here are the five most dangerous conspiracy theories of 2016 (and some honorable mentions).

1. Mexicans and refugees are murderers, rapists and terrorists
Danger: Violence

Donald Trump has accused Mexican immigrants of being pawns in a Mexican conspiracy to send murderers and rapists to America. He also has accused refugees, fleeing their tattered homeland and shattered lives, of working against the government as ISIL agents.

Most conspiracy theories in the United States resonate when they are levied by the weak and accuse the strong (when out-of-power Democrats accused the Bush administration of being behind 9/11, for example). These conspiracy theories are usually annoying at worst, because those accused of conspiring are well-protected and powerful. In this case, however, the typical model is reversed: The strong (a man running for U.S. president with the backing of a major political party) is accusing the weak (refugees and minorities). This is a more dangerous type of conspiracy theory because those in power can actually act on their wild hunches, sometimes with deadly consequences. If Trump were to act on his conspiracy theories, for example, it could spell doom for those groups in the United States. And those who believe Trump’s rhetoric might choose to act on their own by doing violence to the targets of Trump’s theories.

Just look at what has happened when similar conspiracy theories have caught on before: There are the Salem Witch Trials, where innocent women were brutally murdered; the Red Scare of the 1950s, which saw the United States government violating the rights of countless Americans; and the Japanese internment camps during WWII. When the powerful believe there is a conspiracy against them—real or not—their reactions can have terrible consequences.

2. “There’s something going on”
Danger: Mass paranoia

A favorite go-to conspiracy theory of Trump’s, used in different circumstances at different points during the campaign, these four words suggest that our governmental institutions and our institutions for disseminating information are not only malevolent, but also engaged in a cover-up of epic proportions.

This conspiracy theory is useful for Trump because it lets him avoid specifics; it’s also dangerous because it’s open-ended, leaving Trump supporters plenty of room to connect their own dots. What is, in fact, “going on”? It could be Radical Islamic Terrorists in your neighborhood, refugees armed with ISIL cellphones or a president who either doesn’t care about terrorist attacks on the homeland or is directly involved in them. Maybe a terrorist lives next door, maybe the FBI is actually aiding the terrorists. Maybe our president is a terrorist, too. Who knows, right? But these four words suggest that everyone is in on it, we need to watch our neighbors, keep an eye on the government and watch the president’s body language like a hawk.

This style of conspiracy theorizing—leaving the details for people to figure out on their own—is advantageous because it gives people less to disagree with. What I have found in my research is that the more details there are to a conspiracy theory, the more reasons there are for people to take issue with it. This is one reason why JFK assassination conspiracy theories continue to be so popular compared to others. There is no established villain or plot line; everyone gets to choose the version that makes most sense.

3. Trump is a Manchurian Candidate
Danger: Institutional distrust, political polarization

Criticizing Clinton for her mishandling of classified emails, Trump suggested that the Democratic nominee is now beholden to the Obama administration, which decided not to prosecute her. 

Trump also suggested that other countries now have evidence to blackmail or control Clinton, given that they have been able to hack her private email server. Shooting back, the Clinton campaign put out an ad suggesting that Trump is an agent of powerful Russian interests.

Americans of all political persuasions should be able to trust that the two candidates who could lead the national government aren’t pawns to other interests. When they start to doubt their leaders’ loyalty to the country, institutional distrust can skyrocket. 

It’s also not that easy for a president to shed a conspiracy theory about him or her: The birther theory that dogged Obama during his entire time in the White House has been a distraction for both his administration and the country—and birtherism started with far less fanfare than these current accusations.

These sorts of theories can also be symptoms of, or possibly even contribute to, political polarization. By always calling into question a president’s motives, people on the opposing side never have to engage in meaningful debates over policy.

4. Vast right-wing conspiracy
Danger: Lack of accountability

There are conspiracy theories; and then there are conspiracy theories about conspiracy theories. This particular one was born during the height of the investigations into then-President Bill Clinton’s business practices and personal life. During a Today Show interview, then-first lady Hillary Clinton dismissed the burgeoning Monica Lewinsky scandal: “The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it,” she said, “is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”

Conspiracy theories aren’t reserved for Republicans. Hillary Clinton has held on to her conspiracy theory that the right wing is in league against her and her family to this day; in fact, she claimed this election cycle that the conspiracy is “even better-funded” now.

Here’s the problem: If followed to its conclusion, this conspiracy theory suggests that every criticism, every accusation and every investigation of the Clintons is nothing but a well-orchestrated and false attack by an enormous network of clandestine operatives—giving Clinton and her supporters any easy way to dismiss any charges leveled against her. The Clintons are likely not guilty of all they have been accused. But they have made mistakes and they should be accountable for those. Appealing to a conspiracy should not alleviate a president or presidential candidate from responsibility.
5. Everything is “rigged”
Danger: Disenfranchisement and alienation

The campaigns of Trump and Sanders repeatedly alleged during the primaries that the nomination process is rigged. Earlier this month, Trump claimed that in states without voter ID laws in place, fraud will be rampant and people will be voting “15 times.” And he asserted that the only way the Clinton campaign can win Pennsylvania is if “they cheat.”

We’ve seen what can happen when people seize on conspiracy theories about fraudulent and rigged elections—despite there being no evidence of mass voter fraud. Over the past few years, similar beliefs have led state legislatures across the country to enact restrictive voter ID laws. But rather than fix a system that wasn’t broken to begin with, these efforts have been shown to disenfranchise minority voters. This year, if Trump deploys supporters to polling stations across America to monitor for fraud and challenge voters’ legitimacy as he is promising to do, the results could be similar.

But such claims about election fraud pale in comparison to the larger allegations that the entire system is rigged. Sanders and fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren frequently claimed during this election cycle that the economic and political systems are entirely rigged. Here’s the problem with that theory: The United States has a $20 trillion economy and a political system that is widely diffused across different branches and levels. Being familiar with the failure rates of conspiracies, I can say that there is no group—not hedge-fund managers, not big bankers, not politicians—who could possibly rig our political and economic systems on any large scale and get away with it for long.

Far from being helpful, this sort of rhetoric is dangerous. 

First, it allows for scapegoating (“my lot in life is the fault of the one percent”) and indictment (“the rich and powerful have gotten that way only through illicit means”). It also brings about hopelessness and alienation—the feeling that we have been locked into an unfair and degrading system by a few people who wish to abuse us. These sorts of conspiracy theories also serve to depress the vote, as those who believe that elections and governmental processes are rigged will most likely stay home; this weakens our democracy.
Pharmaceutical companies are hiding the connection between vaccines and autism
Danger: Death

This conspiracy theory claims that vaccines cause a series of illnesses, and that these adverse effects have been covered up by pharmaceutical companies to maintain profits. In fact, vaccines have saved millions of lives. Using the bully pulpit as both Trump and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have done to spread this conspiracy theory and undermine vaccine science will cost lives. Some people will listen to these candidates and skip vaccines for themselves and their children. We already have seen the consequences.

Big agricultural companies are hiding the negative effects of genetically modified foods
Danger: Higher food costs, damage to the environment

Sanders and Stein have both engendered GMO conspiracy theories, which claim that big agriculture and biotech companies are hiding the negative environmental and health consequences of farming and consuming genetically modified foods. This is despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that genetically modified food is safe to eat, similar to the alternatives, better for the environment and cheaper.

The dangers of these conspiracy beliefs are currently playing out in Vermont, where new legislation requires burdensome labeling of foods made from genetically modified crops (a $1,000 fine is levied per day per unlabeled product). Food choice is going down, and food prices are going up. Increased food costs can be absorbed by upper-class budgets; but they have a disproportionate impact on the budgets of people with midand lower incomes.

Ted Cruz’s father took part in the assassination of President Kennedy
Danger: A trip down the rabbit hole

It would be difficult to create any list of conspiracy theories and leave this one out, just by virtue of its creativity. Looking to deal a death blow to Ted Cruz’s campaign, Trump suggested that Cruz’s father was in a picture taken in 1963 with Lee Harvey Oswald, and therefore had a role in the assassination of JFK. Trump further claimed that the media was covering up the story.

The danger here is a bit esoteric: If people were to take Trump at his word that a sitting senator and presidential candidate’s father was involved in Kennedy’s assassination and that the media all knew about it but were purposely hiding it from the public, then nothing in this world could be taken at face value. What else would the media be hiding from us and what other horrific crimes are linked to our government officials? There would be no end to the conspiracy theorizing.

Maybe the advent of the upcoming debates will give Trump and Clinton an incentive to leave the conspiracy rhetoric behind and focus on issue-oriented politics. The likelihood, however, is that they will continue to push the country toward a conspiracy theory fueled delirium (some polls suggest an uptick in conspiracy beliefs as of late). And if they do, the results could be dire.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

More Trumponian turmoil: As the Trump turns in campaign 2016

"....more turmoil resulting from Donald Trump's unstable personality...." John Easley

"And it's all about me, me, me, me, me
And we don't give a dang, dang, dang, dang, dang
About nobody-e-e-e"

Regardless of how Republicans try to intimidate Secretary Hillary Clinton's candidacy, the fact is, Donald Trump's campaign is obviously in turmoil. Reports now about more turmoil and cancelled campaign trips to important campaign states Colorado, Nevada and Oregon, just announced Monday Aug. 22, 2016.
Trump changed his campaign schedule, apparently, because he can.

Trumpeeeeeee-e-e! It's all about Trumpeeee-e-e

PoliticusUSA reports:
Republicans In Turmoil As Trump Abruptly Cancels Campaign Events In Three States
By Jason Easley on Mon, Aug 22nd, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Donald Trump abruptly canceled scheduled campaign events in Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada as questions grow over what is going on inside the GOP organization (chaos!).

After cancelling a heavily promoted speech on immigration in Colorado, the Trump campaign announced that they were canceling a scheduled rally in Nevada.  

(Hello? Under the acronym #YCMTSU) Trump blamed the flooding in Louisiana for canceling a rally and fundraiser that was scheduled in Portland, OR. #no_seriously

(In other words, you can't make this stuff up!)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump canceled his Aug. 3,  rally and fundraiser in Portland OR.

Trump’s Oregon campaign director, Jacob G. Daniels, said scheduling changes surrounding Trump’s trip to tour flooding in Louisiana forced the cancellation.

Trump replaced the Colorado event with another hour long appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. (Oh so boooooring, Trump will spew venom to the right wing choir!)

At this point, although there's no evidence, the greatest irony of all would be if Trump had to cancel these events because he wasn’t healthy enough and lacked the stamina to campaign on a full schedule.

A more realistic assumption is that the schedule shakeup is just more turmoil and drama coming from Donald Trump’s unstable personality.

At a time when the Republican nominee should hitting swing states, Nevada is actually fairly close according to the polls, and Republicans once dreamed of winning Colorado, Trump is canceling events in swing states.

The Trump campaign is spending very little on ads, has no serious field operation, and now Trump is campaigning less.

One has to wonder if Donald Trump is still trying. Maybe the reality television billionaire is on the verge of taking his ball and going home. Either way, Republicans are trapped in more Trump turmoil.

Clearly, Donald Trump has only one political message and it's this: "me, me, me, it's all about me, me, me....!"

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Racists alert - White people are dying at increasing rates

Right wing radical racists internalize a false belief about white supremacy. In other words, they don't support any kind of racial integration. Well, regardless of how wrong minded this evil following subscribes to, the fact is, as younger caucasion women are dying faster than other population groups, there's "hello?" no way this bigotry can survive.
Washington Post: 
What has changed is the age of the people dying. 

Over the last 15 years, McCreary County (Kentucky) saw a 75 percent increase in the mortality rate for white women between the ages of 35 and 59, one of the highest increases in the nation, according to a Washington Post analysis of national mortality rates. The analysis also showed that the mortality rate for similarly aged white women nationally increased 23 percent; for white men increased 16 percent; for black women decreased 10 percent; for black men decreased 20 percent; for Hispanic women decreased 11 percent; and for Hispanic men decreased 16 percent.

Another study, by a research center at the University of Washington, found that McCreary County women are more likely to be obese and engage in life-shortening behaviors such as binge drinking than in previous generations, and a separate tally kept by the funeral home showed that, in 2013, 20 white women younger than 60 were buried; last year it was 31.

Those deaths have been charted by Debbie Murphy, the owner of two of the county’s three funeral homes. In fact, she maintains spreadsheets that enumerate every burial in McCreary County, and, moreover, she knows most of the people, too.

Andres Cherlin wrote: It's disturbing and puzzling news

"Death rates are rising for white, less-educated Americans."

The economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton that rates have been climbing since 1999 for non-Hispanic whites age 45 to 54, with the largest increase occurring among the least educated. An analysis of death certificates by The New York Times found similar trends and showed that the rise may extend to white women.

Both studies attributed the higher death rates to increases in poisonings and chronic liver disease, which mainly reflect drug overdoses and alcohol abuse, and to suicides

In contrast, death rates fell overall for blacks and Hispanics.

Why are whites overdosing or drinking themselves to death at higher rates than African-Americans and Hispanics in similar circumstances? Some observers have suggested that higher rates of chronic opioid prescriptions could be involved, along with whites’ greater pessimism about their finances.

Yet I’d like to propose a different answer: what social scientists call reference group theory. The term “reference group” was pioneered by the social psychologist Herbert H. Hyman in 1942, and the theory was developed by the Columbia sociologist Robert K. Merton in the 1950s. It tells us that to comprehend how people think and behave, it’s important to understand the standards to which they compare themselves.

How is your life going? For most of us, the answer to that question means comparing our lives to the lives our parents were able to lead. As children and adolescents, we closely observed our parents. They were our first reference group.

And here is one solution to the death-rate conundrum: It’s likely that many non-college-educated whites are comparing themselves to a generation that had more opportunities than they have, whereas many blacks and Hispanics are comparing themselves to a generation that had fewer opportunities.

When whites without college degrees look back, they can often remember fathers who were sustained by the booming industrial economy of postwar America. Since then, however, the industrial job market has slowed significantly. The hourly wages of male high school graduates declined by 14 percent from 1973 to 2012, according to analysis of data from the Economic Policy Institute. Although high school educated white women haven’t experienced the same major reversal of the job market, they may look at their husbands — or, if they are single, to the men they choose not to marry — and reason that life was better when they were growing up.

African-Americans, however, didn’t get a fair share of the blue-collar prosperity of the postwar period. They may look back to a time when discrimination deprived their parents of equal opportunities. Many Hispanics may look back to the lower standard of living their parents experienced in their countries of origin. Whites are likely to compare themselves to a reference group that leads them to feel worse off. Blacks and Hispanics compare themselves to reference groups that may make them feel better off.

The sociologist Timothy Nelson and I observed this phenomenon in interviews with high-school-educated young adult men in 2012 and 2013. A 35-year-old white man who did construction jobs said, “It’s much harder for me as a grown man than it was for my father.” He remembered his father saying that back when he was 35, “‘I had a house and I had five kids or four kids.’ You know, ‘Look where I was at.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, Dad, things have changed.’”

African-American men were more upbeat. One said: “I think there are better opportunities now because first of all, the economy’s changing. The color barrier is not as harsh as it was back then.”

In addition, national surveys show striking racial and ethnic differences in satisfaction with one’s social standing relative to one’s parents. The General Social Survey conducted by the research organization NORC at the University of Chicago has asked Americans in its biennial surveys to compare their standard of living to that of their parents. In 2014, according to my analysis, among 25- to 54-year-olds without college degrees, blacks and Hispanics were much more positive than whites: 67 percent of African-Americans and 68 percent of Hispanics responded “much better” or “somewhat better,” compared with 47 percent of whites.

Those figures represent a reversal from 2000, when whites were more positive than blacks, 64 percent to 60 percent. (Hispanics were the most positive in nearly all years.)

But we size ourselves up based on more than just our parents. White workers historically have compared themselves against black workers, taking some comfort in seeing a group that was doing worse than them. 

Now, however, the decline of racial restrictions in the labor market and the spread of affirmative action have changed that. Non-college-graduate whites in the General Social Survey are more likely to agree that “conditions for black people have improved” than are comparable blacks themselves, 68 percent to 53 percent.

Reference group theory explains why people who have more may feel that they have less. What matters is to whom you are comparing yourself. It’s not that white workers are doing worse than African-Americans or Hispanics.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, the median weekly earnings of white men aged 25 to 54 were $950, well above the same figure for black men ($703) and Hispanic men ($701). But for some whites — perhaps the ones who account for the increasing death rate — that may be beside the point. Their main reference group is their parents’ generation, and by that standard they have little to look forward to and a lot to lament.

Andrew J. Cherlin is a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America.”

In other words, these sociological analyses about death rates apply to the groups studied and that obviously includes those who are racists themselves!

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Americans must respect our national security experts - that means Trump!

It's hard to imagine any Americans voicing skepticism about our nation's national security experts. Afterall, regardless of how individuals might feel about the work of national security personnel, either the organization is too agressive or it's not, the facts are clear- we don't know what these authorities know. Therefore, our personal lack of facts removes us from the capacity to cast doubt on the work of the national security public servants. Except, Donald Trump dosn't get this concept. Unfortunately, he doesn't know everything, even if he is delusional enough to believe differently. Consequently, he doubts the national security experts even though he doesn't know what they know. #no_seriously!

In fact, Trump says he doesn't trust the experts who will provide him with his candidate's national security briefing! #no_seriously!

Hours before he was scheduled to receive his first classified intelligence briefing, Donald Trump said he does not trust information coming out of U.S. intelligence agencies and indicated he would cease relying on the bulk of the intelligence community’s massive workforce.

“Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country,” Trump responded. “I mean, look what’s happened over the last 10 years. … It’s been catastrophic.

“Very easy to use them, but I won't use them, because they’ve made such bad decisions,” he said, pointing to apparent intelligence failures ahead of the United States's 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

(Oh paleeeeze! Trump's arrogance is "huge"! He made plenty of bad decisions in his life, but for sure he's no intelligence expert!)

At the time, George W. Bush administration officials appeared convinced that Saddam Hussein’s government was creating weapons of mass destruction, though that was not the case.

“If we would have never touched it, it would have been a lot better,” Trump said.

He may not have a choice. CIA Director John Brennan has already suggested he would resign rather than comply with Trump’s orders to employ harsh interrogation methods or torture against America's enemies, and it’s unclear whether others would join him.

Nonetheless, Trump's comments demonstrate a startling lack of confidence in the 16 federal intelligence agencies and their tens of thousands of employees.

Later Wednesday, Trump received his first briefing on intelligence matters from senior government officials as part of a routine process of bringing potential new presidents up to speed on world events.

Trump's comments follow a House Republican analysis last week confirming reports that intelligence produced through the military’s Central Command had been edited or squelched in order to provide an unrealistically positive image of the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The conclusions seriously undermine the Obama administration’s claims about the anti-ISIS push and help explain the trouble it has had routing the extremist group from its bases in Syria and Iraq.

Trump is planning to attend the Wednesday briefing with former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who led the Defense Intelligence Agency earlier in the Obama administration.

During an interview aired on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning, Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, was asked whether he “trust[s] intelligence.”

"Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country,” Trump responded. “I mean, look what’s happened over the last 10 years. … It’s been catastrophic." (OMG! What does "catastrophic" mean? If Trump means the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City's World Trade Center, the American Airlines flight 77- Pentagon attack and the loss of United Airline Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, then he must say so!!!)

“Very easy to use them, but I won't use them, because they’ve made such bad decisions,” he said, pointing to apparent intelligence failures ahead of the United States's 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

At the time, George W. Bush administration officials appeared convinced that Saddam Hussein’s government was creating weapons of mass destruction, athough, that was (proven) to not be the case.

“If we would have never touched it, it would have been a lot better,” Trump said.

He may not have a choice. CIA Director John Brennan has already suggested he would resign rather than comply with Trump’s orders to employ harsh interrogation methods or torture against America's enemies, and it’s unclear whether others would join him.

Nonetheless, Trump's comments demonstrate a startling lack of faith in the 16 federal intelligence agencies and their tens of thousands of employees.

Later Wednesday, Trump is scheduled to receive his first briefing on intelligence mattersfrom senior government officials as part of a routine process of bringing potential new presidents up to speed on world events.

Trump's comments follow a House Republican analysis last week confirming reports that intelligence produced through the military’s Central Command had been edited or squelched in order to provide an unrealistically positive image of the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The conclusions seriously undermine the Obama administration’s claims about the anti-ISIS push and help explain the trouble it has had routing the extremist group from its bases in Syria and Iraq.

Trump is attended the Wednesday briefing with former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who led the Defense Intelligence Agency earlier in the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, regardless of how #DonaldTrump feels about the national security agencies he is quick to disdain, the fact is, his leadership role demands for him to show support for the experts who work very hard to protect America against future terrorism attacks.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

As the Trump turns - daily GOP drama

"Manafort is leaving on good terms with the campaign, and will remain an ally and outside confidant of the campaign, according to a close associate of his who spoke on the condition of anonymity Friday to The Washington Post."  Does anybody on Donald Trump's campaign know that any "outside confidant help" must be reported as an "in kind" campaign contribution? 

A presidential political campaign is not suitable for soap opera drama! Wake up America! Dump Trump!

Still absent ideas, vision and his income taxes as secret as a national security briefing, Donald Trump continues to create political news like he's acting for reality TV.  

But, wake up Donald !! You're trying to convince us to vote for you?  Your family are paper doll cut outs without personality, your political campaign is falling apart (twice!) and your message is driven by bigotry. This isn't reality TV! Your appeal to voters is as full of inconsistencies as Ryan Lochte's robbery story, concocted in Rio di Janeiro.

Every day seems like causes more useless drama!

June 20th headlines: The Daily Trail: Donald Trump's day started out bad. It got worse.  "As we've long noted, Donald Trump has said he wants to run a different campaign than the one Mitt Romney did in 2012. On that front, he is succeeding handsomely," wrote Rebecca Sinderbrand in The Washington Post.

The Fix: The craziest 24 hours of Donald Trump’s campaign so Amber Phillips (But wait! There's more! got worse!) "Donald Trump knows how to put on a solid media spectacle. But as my colleague Dan Balz so astutely points out, these past 24 to 48 hours of vice-presidential drama suggests a campaign out of control with its messaging. The Veep drama, which ended after after Trump tweeted Friday morning he'd chosen Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), went something like this: Donald Trump said he had a name. Then he had five, maybe 10. Then one guy in mind. Then two. Maybe it was this guy, he told aides. Yes, definitely this guy. Actually, it might not be this guy; his family and advisers want other guys. Then, publicly: "I haven't made up my mind," Trump said Thursday night, following reports he had indeed made up his mind. Oh wait, he actually has made up his mind — and just in the nick of time." wrote Phillips.

Today, Friday, will drive the weekend soap opera with this new development:  Trump campaign chairman and chief strategist Paul Manafort on Friday resigned, following a staff shake-up this week that reduced his role in the campaign.  GOP nominee Donald Trump confirmed the resignation in a statement Friday morning: “This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today,
and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success.”  (Ohhhhpaleeeeze!)

Manafort's resignation comes as the campaign seeks to correct course after weeks of damaging controversies and self-inflicted wounds, effectively evaporating Trump’s steady footing against Clinton in the polls and his (now evaporated) post-convention bump. Trump is now trailing Clinton in every major poll.

Manafort repeatedly signaled to members of the Republican establishment that he and Trump were working together to rebrand the candidate in a more presidential light. But hopes of a so-called “pivot” vanished as the summer wore on and Trump appeared intent on settling scores with former rivals within his own party and critics. Perhaps most damaging was Trump's attack on a Gold Star family – who lost their son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, while he served in Iraq – for speaking out against him at the Democratic National Convention. He later refused to apologize or express regret. (As an act of retribution this is a signal of how Donald Trump would govern?  He's definitely modeling his political ambitions after Vladimir Putin!)

But aside from Trump’s own missteps, Republican strategists also became increasingly concerned that the campaign, under the direction of Manafort, failed to build a robust infrastructure in key battleground states. Though the campaign is relying heavily on the Republican National Committee (RNC- that would be Reince Priebus? )
for its ground game, lackluster efforts by the main campaign have left Trump under prepared for the competitive general election on the ground.

Manafort’s personal business dealings have also come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, amid damaging questions over his ties to foreign governments and indications that he might have received $12 million in undisclosed cash payments. The alleged payments, which Manafort denied, were noted in a ledger kept by former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych's political party. Since then, more evidence has surfaced that raised concerns about his ties to the Kremlin.

Manafort formally joined Trump's campaign in late March to oversee preparations for the Republican convention, which at that point was poised to turn into a battle for delegates. He immediately clashed with Corey Lewandowski, Trump's long-serving campaign manager who had never worked on a presidential campaign. 

For months, the two scuffled for power and access to Trump.

On May 19, after Trump collected the necessary number of delegates to lock-up the nomination, Trump promoted Manafort to the position of campaign chairman, a clear slight to Lewandowski. One month after that, Trump fired Lewandowski on June 20, clearing Manafort to run the campaign.

The firing followed Trump's controversial comments about the heritage of a judge assigned to a civil case involving Trump University, which many strategists blamed Lewandowski for failing to rein in.

Manafort took a much different approach to running the campaign than Lewandowski had. While Lewandowski and his small band of aides with limited or no presidential campaign experience operated under a motto of "Let Trump Be Trump," Manafort quickly seemed to implement some limits on Trump. Prior to Manafort's arrival, Trump was frequently a guest on the influential Sunday morning news shows that often set the tone for the week, sometimes calling into or appearing on numerous shows the same day. Starting this spring, Trump's appearances became rarer -- and Manafort often appeared in his place.  (Perhaps, thankfully for Democrats, this tactic was a "huge" mistake, as Trump might coin the phrase.)

So, if it's true that future performance is usually predicted by the past and "you can't teach a 70 year old new tricks", then this continuous drama is a clear indication about how unqualified Donald Trump is to be a political leader. It's urgent! Trump needs to resign very soon, because his leadership is just too terrible a risk for the GOP to take if they want to remain a viable political party.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

A negative campaign tanks all Republican candidates

Too much negativity is taking down the GOP

Donald Trump's 24/7 negative, bigoted and slanderous campaign against Secretary Hillary Clinton, will drive even moderate Democrats, those who might otherwise vote for the incumbant Republicans, to vote with the Democratic caandidates.
Although I realize how the human brain is somehow "wired" to pay atention to negativity, the fact is, when political campaigns sink to the lowest common denominator of "negativity", it seems imposible, in my mind, to believe the ugliness isn't contagious. In other words, excessive negativity eventually infects all the candidates. It's like a vortex of negativity sucks in everybody.

That's why, I believe, the Donald Trump burden of negativity, the bigoted rhetoric, veiled threats of violent retribution about an impending election loss and all the other junk being spewed by the Republcian narcissist, will rub off on the other GOP candidates.

In fact, this spiral of negativity might cost the Republicans their slim Senate majority. Of course, if the candidates at risk of loosing their 2016 elections had taken a stand against Donald Trump rather than hide in the rafters while he claimed the Republican nomination, maybe they wouldn't be in so much trouble because it's possible, just possible, they could have persuaded Democrats to vote for them. No more, not now. #no_seriously!

Reported in National Public Radio:
"How to loose the Senate in 82 days", by Susan Davis

Hillary Clinton's increasingly dominant lead in the presidential race is solidifying many Republicans' worst 2016 fears, that Donald Trump will cost the party, not only the White House, but also control of the Senate.

"The bottom is starting to fall out a little earlier than expected," says a top Senate GOP campaign aide who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of the race. "We started off with a very difficult map. No matter what, this was going to be a very difficult year."

The aide says Trump's ailing campaign is an additional drag on the Senate battlefield. The end result, the aide concedes, is a likely Democratic takeover this November. (OMG, I hope so!)

That candor is widely — if still privately — shared by increasing numbers of Senate GOP campaign operatives who believe that Trump is destined to lose the presidential race and that the Republican Party's short-lived, two-year majority will go with it.

The landscape

Republicans took control of the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections and enjoy a 54-46 majority (there are two independents but they caucus with Democrats). Democrats need just four seats for a takeover if Clinton wins the White House because the vice president is the tiebreaker in an evenly divided Senate.

Democrats are already heavily favored to pick up two GOP-held seats in Illinois and Wisconsin, leaving them with just two additional wins necessary for a takeover. The two parties are seriously contesting races in 10 additional states, including races that overlap with the presidential battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire.

Senate operatives are particularly dismayed by Trump's post-convention slump — both in polling and in performance — which the latest polls indicate is negatively affecting Republicans down the ballot. (Honestly, IMO, the GOP convention couldn't have been more of a fiasco if the keystone cops had planned it for film noir parody.)

As FiveThirtyEight noted on Tuesday, six of the eight Republicans running in top-tier Senate races are polling worse since the conventions. Only two Republican incumbents, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have either maintained or advanced their standings since then.

Clinton is also expanding the map into states once thought of as safe territory for Republicans. In North Carolina, Clinton's recent surge is seriously imperiling two-term GOP Sen. Richard Burr, who recently fell behind little-known Democratic challenger Deborah Ross, 46 percent to 44 percent, in the latest Marist poll.

In Georgia, GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson went on the air this week with his first campaign ad of the cycle. The spot, featuring an older woman who is a lifelong Democrat, is an obvious bid to appeal to a key demographic that Trump has alienated.

Republican and Democratic campaign operatives also agree that races in GOP-held Missouri and Indiana will tighten as Election Day approaches.

From the outset, Republicans had only two opportunities to pick up a Democratic-held seat in 2016. But in Colorado, Republicans nominated a conservative candidate who is polling so far behind Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet that Bennet is cruising toward re-election.

The lone opportunity for a Republican pickup is Nevada, where Clinton's edge is narrower over Trump and the Senate race remains competitive for both the presidential race and the seat held by retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. "We have to win Nevada to have any hope of holding the Senate," the GOP aide says.

Will more voters split their tickets this fall?

For Senate GOP candidates to win in a state carried by Clinton this November, they will need to directly appeal to Clinton voters who are willing to split their ticket between parties. (At this point, IMO Democratic voters are so angry at Trump, and the GOP for nominating his unqualifications to this level of potential disaster, that they will likely vote Democrat "just because they can".)

Professor David Kimball with the University of Missouri, St. Louis has studied split-ticket voting patterns and is skeptical that a critical mass of voters will split their tickets in enough states to deliver both a Clinton victory and a Senate GOP majority on Election Day.

"Most voters simply intend to be, No. 1, in support of their party and thus aren't receptive to strategic or nuanced arguments," Kimball says. "And if they are going to split their ticket it's going to be for a candidate that is personally appealing to them, or to avoid a candidate that's personally unappealing."

Senate candidates who have successfully outperformed the top of the ticket have generally fallen into two camps. The first are personally popular incumbents like Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia or GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who have their own distinct brands and regularly outperform their party.

Other senators who have succeeded against the top of the ticket faced fatally flawed opponents, as Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., did in 2012 against Republican Todd Akin, who made controversial statements about rape and pregnancy.

Many of this year's GOP incumbents are first-term senators like Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey and New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte. Campaign operatives praise both for running strong campaigns, but there is deep skepticism that either can win if Clinton decisively wins their states.

Trump's missing ground game

Nonpartisan election analyst Sean Trende of says Republicans are further damaged by the lack of any organizational heft at the top of the ticket.

"A more serious problem for Republicans is the lack of a Trump campaign," Trende says, noting that presidential candidates tend to drive voter identification, mobilization and turnout that benefit candidates down the ballot. The Trump campaign is not operating any semblance of a traditional campaign operation to get out the vote in critical states. "Hillary Clinton is drumming up support and a lot of these Senate candidates are on their own," he says.

Trende forecasts a Democratic takeover, although he notes that down-ballot races generally don't cement themselves until the closing weeks of the election.

Trende forecasts Democratic pickups in Illinois and Wisconsin and likely in Indiana, where former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh is attempting a comeback and is currently favored to win against GOP Rep. Todd Young.

That would put Democrats just one seat away from a takeover. "It basically comes down to: Can Democrats hold Nevada, and win one race in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio or some other state?" Trende says.

In the coming weeks, it may no longer be a question of whether Democrats take over the Senate, but rather how big of a majority they will have come Election Day. (OMG, I sure hope so! With the Senate as a, "God Willing", Democratic majority, maybe the government can actually get something done.

Secretary Clinton has a challenge. She must remain positive in the face of the unending slander being spewed about her, so that she can maintain a balance against Donald Trump's vortex of negativity. In other words, don't get dragged down into Trump's low level of bullying and name calling.

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