An Invalidated Election?

What if it is determined that the results of the 2016 election for President of the United States should be considered invalid. This question has floated around in my brain for months, but emerges today as a viable to consider. CNN has reported that U.S. officials see evidence of communications between persons close to Donald Trump and Russians. If this ends up being proven to such an extent that it shows active coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian government, we have to consider if the election should be invalidated.

There are two kinds of invalidation to be considered. One is if Trump remains President with horrific approval ratings below 20%. That is, he is faced with serving with no political capital. In my estimation, he would resign in that situation and we would have Pence become President with a similar cloud over his head. The situation for him would be less acute because it was Trump’s friends who were the go-betweens, not Pence’s people. He can claim plausible deniability and probably serve out the remainder of Trump’s term with Ryan in Congress leading the conservative agenda.

The other kind of invalidation is if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Trump and Pence’s election should be considered illegal and that they should be removed from office.* If the Supreme Court makes that ruling and Trump and Pence abide by it and vacate office we have a crisis of the office being abandoned but not by normal constitutional means. It may be that Paul Ryan simply becomes President as third in line. But, it is possible also that the SCOTUS could rule that a new election should be conducted. That would be an unprecedented situation with nominations by parties and other concerns to be managed. Probably, parties would hold emergency conventions or executive council meetings to nominate with a 3 to 6 month campaign ahead while Paul Ryan acts as caretaker President?

We could be entering uncharted waters.

*A similar situation occurs if the House impeaches and Senate tries Trump and Pence to boot them out of office based on this evidence. The difference is this clearly results in the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, becoming President.

Radicalization of Whites

Johnny Silvercloud points out the fact that we now have large sections of our society that radicalize white people. (https://afrosapiophile.com/2016/12/10/white-radicalization/comment-page-3/#comment-750) He’s right. It’s clear as day. Some hope that facts can blunt this, that simply knowing that Radical White Nationalist/Supremacist Terrorists have killed more Americans than any other Terrorists can cause people to stop to change their thinking.

Sadly, facts don’t appear to matter. When Drumpf can claim that the attacks by a White Nationalist Terrorist against Muslims were evidence of good reason to prevent Muslims from entering the USA, facts are irrelevant.

It is time to call out Terrorism for what it is. These are not Lone Wolves (heroic language, there). They are people who are radicalized by groups (including some churches) who nurture their fears and aggression, transforming them into White Supremacist Terrorists. It is a process indistinguishable from that which nurtures fears and aggression in young Muslims to become Radical Islamic Terrorists.

We’ve been fighting the wrong enemy for decades. Our racism towards the world leads to 9/11, so we fight even more in ‘crusades’, fomenting hate with our bombs. They strike back with their nurtured Radicals. That bolsters fear and racism even more so that we increase our numbers of White Supremacist Terrorists…. it is now a cycle of violence, and lies will perpetuate it indefinitely? Egad, what have we done by never coming to grips with our racist slave-based economic development of the 18th and 19th Century?

Taxes Are The Price for Civilization

A short while back a friend of mine who is of libertarian mind questioned me on my being comfortable with paying taxes.  He posed two questions that are commonly seen digs to try to undermine those of us who feel that taxing high earners and those with high wealth is a good thing:

  1. Did you pay extra taxes back when George W. Bush cut taxes?
  2. Do you think the government knows how to spend your money better than you do?

Of course, both of these basically assert that once I’ve made the obvious conclusions in agreement with his position (no to both) that my overall position is made into a house of cards and comes crashing down. I removed the thread from Facebook because I didn’t have the time or inclination to deal with it then and there and I hate back and forth arguing on FB. That’s an error I intend to set straight in this posting.

To the first question that suggests that if I feel taxes are a good thing why not pay extra, I dispense with such a weird suggestion by saying: I’m comfortable paying what the government mandates, but no more because I also have things I need to do with my money and I’d like to keep it for that (games!). The natural response to that is: Well, then, why not keep even more, why not ask for lower taxes? Now we get into the complexities of the issues beyond simple discussion of more or less money in my pocket or the government’s. The government is providing a variety of services that I feel are valuable, therefore I’m willing to pay for them. If the government provides services that are beyond what I’m comfortable with, then it is my job to communicate that to my representatives in government. Note, for me it’s not about the money I pay that bothers me, it is about the services and if I think that I’m getting value for money. I’ll talk about the various services below. In that sense, it’s no different from paying for clothing. If I feel I’m getting value for my money in what I buy for clothing, then there is no issue to resolve. If I’m not getting value for my money, then there is an issue to resolve and I can do that by shopping elsewhere. Unfortunately, we can’t shop for the government we want quite so simply. Our influence is more akin to telling the manager that their store is selling merchandise that I consider overpriced and that I’d like that adjusted, or else I will fire him at the ballot box.

To the second question that suggests that I am a better steward of my money, I say it depends on what I see that needs to be done. For some things, I’m the better steward of my money, for others the government is the better steward. Indeed, based on the above argument, I’m basically making a decision that the best value for some of my money is to pay for the government to handle some things I consider important. The government is clearly better at setting up armies to defend our nation, create road networks, manage supply of water and riding us of sewage, and so forth for the obvious stuff. Getting into less obvious, things we tend to argue over, is social services. Is the government better at retirement savings? To a certain extent, yes. Social Security is solvent indefinitely, as long as those in Congress don’t steal from that pot (as they’ve been doing for decades). Is the government better at distributing assistance for the needy? Certainly, I think. Charities are nice and I give to a few that I’ve carefully researched. But, charities are also rife with abuse, having managers enriching themselves; I think that is immoral.  Around the world, there is a plethora of evidence that governments are much more effective and efficient in delivery of health care compared to the USA’s insurance industry. I’d definitely be willing to pay substantially more taxes for the USA to have a nationalized single payer health system such as seen in nearly all the rest of the industrialized world. The reason is that I’m absolutely certain that I’d actually have more money in my pocket at the end of the day because I would not any longer be paying for health insurance, nor would my employer. That line item in my paycheck would be changed from going to an insurance company to going to the government, and I have no doubt it would be less money in the end.

So, it’s about if I feel I’m getting value for my money, for both questions. To a certain extent, it gets down to values about the world I want to live in. I loath the idea of poor persons being left to starve with no hope of help to get a leg up. I loath the idea of persons who are disabled left to beg with no hope of living with a modicum of dignity. My sense of morality is that if we are a nation that is truly civilized, we take care of our weakest persons as if they were our own children, or own parents, our own spouses. That’s why I’m fine with paying taxes. The value I get for my money is civilization.

 

Confederate Monuments, Names of Schools, etc.

Context

Lately, there has been discussion about removal of statues and monuments to soldiers and generals of the Confederate States of America. I guess it got a lot of traction with the discussions about the Confederate Battle Flag flying on State property in South Carolina and its eventual removal. The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. has announced it is removing stained glass that depicts the Confederate Battle Flag. Similar actions are happening in cities across the south, New Orleans, Louisville (granted, Kentucky was not a state of the Confederacy, but it was a slavery state), and Birmingham, to name a few.

It’s not just monuments, schools are named after prominent Confederate figures. There are high schools named for Jefferson Davis, P.G.T Beauregard, “Stonewall” Jackson, and so forth. Of course, several are named for Robert E. Lee. I knew of a middle school and a high school in Louisiana. I would have attended the middle school if my parents had not put me in private school during the height of the integration battles in my home town. I did attend Robert E. Lee High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Robert E. Lee High School

It was an excellent school and prepared me well to go to college at Georgia Tech. I was ready to tackle calculus through my pre-calculus class and had two entire semesters dedicated to Shakespeare. Located near LSU, with many faculty children attending, it was expected to have such things.

Age caught up with Lee and it has been rebuilt with all of the marvels of the modern views of education. It is top notch in all ways, clearly.

As it is slated to reopen in the coming fall, the question of its name has been brought up, and a battle is brewing. The battle is the same as the one over the monuments. Is it appropriate to honor Robert E. Lee in 2016 America?

My Opinion on Renaming

Below, with some editing, is a comment I made in response to an editorial in The Baton Rouge Advocate. On Thursday, June 9, 2016, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board will have a forum to discuss a name change.

Some still question if changing the name is appropriate. Absolutely, it is appropriate.

This is not a decision about political correctness or other such distracting mislabeling. It is about ethical decisions and removing a burden for future students.

Ethical Decisions

This is about making ethical decisions in the here and now about whom we choose to honor and whom we choose to relegate to history books and museum contextualization. By naming a school after an historical figure, by maintaining a statue to an historical figure, we are absolutely honoring that person. Indeed, we continue to elevate that person in public consciousness. Robert E. Lee is a much larger figure in the public consciousness than he should be, in my opinion somewhat because of the many monuments and schools named after him. Thousands of students who attended the first version of Robert E. Lee High School learned about him who otherwise would have read about him in a history book and probably forgotten him soon afterwards. How many people know of George Thomas? Patience, you’ll learn a little here.

Whether to honor a specific historical person or not is our choice based on our ethics. In that choice, we make a statement about how we feel about that historical person’s acts.

Robert E. Lee had a choice to serve the Union or serve the Confederacy. He chose the Confederacy, arguing he was choosing based on loyalty to Virginia. He chose to serve the side protecting the right to ownership of other human beings. Other officers in the United States Army had the same choice at the time of the outbreak of the war. Some men from Southern states chose their loyalty to the United States, some transferred their loyalty to the Confederacy. (They had sworn an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, after all.)

If we maintain the honoring of Robert E. Lee with the name of the school we are saying that his decision to defend slavery was quite all right. We all know it wasn’t because owning humans is grievously wrong. It was an act of misguided loyalty. Others such as George Thomas of Virginia who chose to stay with the Union lost all posessions and connection to the family. They are the heros for whom schools should be named. Alas, I can find no record of a school named after George Thomas. (There is a George C. Thomas Junior High School in Philadelphia, named after a banker important for financial stability of the Union during the war, and not the same man.)

The Effect on Students

We should recognize the effect the name of the school will have on students of the school. Regardless of background, there is a heavy weight associated with attaching yourself to a school named Robert E. Lee.

The descendants of slaves should not need to attend a school named after a man who made the choice to defend enslavement of humans. They should not have to deal with the cognitive dissonance of desiring an excellent education at a place dedicated to a man who fought for their ancestors’ continued enslavement.

I am a proud graduate of R. E. Lee High School, class of ’76. But, over the years, on paperwork for this and that I needed to document the name of my high school. As a psychologist, I know that people are influenced by their biases, even when they try their best to not let those biases have influence. How many times was my application downrated just a small amount, enough to move me out of contention for a job or educational opportunity because of the awareness of R. E. Lee as a man who defended slavery? I can never know the answer in any specific case, but without a doubt it happened, because that’s just how the human mind words. The people making a decision wouldn’t even be able to point to why. They’d just say, “I don’t know, I just have a bit of a negative ‘vibe’ about this candidate.”

It would be better to not saddle future generations of high school graduates with that little bit of extra weight in what will doubtless be a competitive employment and educational market.

Pride in a Name

Fix this now. It is both ethically righteous and a benefit to future students to change the name away from Robert E. Lee. A name of a public structure should be one to utter easily with pride, not one that may require a justification.

Establishment of a State Religion OK According to Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas is OK with states establishing an official religion and that’s why it is important to vote for Hillary Clinton even if frustrated by Bernie Sanders not getting the nomination. The Supreme court is in the balance.

Clarence Thomas has been a controversial figure since he was first nominated to the Supreme Court. We are approaching the 25th anniversary of his nomination in which accusations of sexual harassment were revealed by National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg. Thomas has been remarkably conservative, some argue even farther to the right than the late Antonin Scalia. Charges of conflict of interest have dogged he and his wife. He virtually never speaks from the bench when cases are presented, so much so that when he finally spoke this past February for the first time in over 10 years it made national news. Just speaking sparks news stories.

So, it is never a surprise that he is in the news again. This time it is for something a good bit more substantial, possibly the biggest issue since his nomination hearings in 1991. He has said that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit the individual 50 states from establishing official state religions. It came in a dissent in a 5 to 4 case that allowed prayers at town board meetings. Thomas simply says that the Establishment Clause is not included in the implications of the 14th Amendment. The 14 Amendment is used to justify that the U.S. Constitution applies to States, also. In his rather unusual view, the Establishment Clause says that Congress can’t make laws that establish an official national religion (that is a conventional view) and can’t make laws that interfere with a State making laws to establish an official state religion (that is a non-conventional view).

So, this coming November we all will be facing a crucial decision: Whom to elect for President? There are a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters who are unwavering in their devotion. That is truly great. Sanders views are close to my own Social Democrat* views, I admire him tremendously. But, he will not be the nominee. A lot of Bernie Sanders voters claim that they can’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I guess a lot of folks are not Democrats and feel no obligation to support the Democrats’ nominee. No foul there. But, come November an election will  be held and there will not be a viable Social Democrat on the ticket because there is no Social Democrat party in the US that could reasonably launch a viable national campaign. Therefore, Social Democrats have a decision to make between Clinton and Trump.

Look at the 4-4 Supreme Court. Who do you want deciding the upcoming cases on religious freedom, women’s rights, the influence of money in politics, gun laws, etc? Who do you want to pick the next several Supreme Court Justices, men and women who will have huge influence for the next 20 to 40 years? Do you really want Donald Trump to make that decision?

Come November, it will be time for the Social Democrats to hold their nose and vote for Hillary Clinton. In December, it will be a good time to then gather to form a new Social Democrat party in the USA. Then, start the hard work of getting local officials elected, state officials elected, and eventually national officials. You have to start in the minors to work up to the big leagues. Heck, maybe you bolster the already strong Green Party. If you are lucky, maybe you can get Bernie Sanders to be your founder and standard-bearer. Indeed, this may be Bernie Sanders long game, to use the contact lists he gains from the Democratic Party and his own list of workers and contributors to form the basis for a new Social Democrat Party.

*It is worth noting that there is a difference between Social Democrat and Democratic Socialist views. Social Democrats are strong believers in capitalism as the engine of an economy, but that the primary purpose of a society is to build a social system that is constantly supporting the strength of the next generation with education, health, housing and sustenance. Democratic Socialists want to eliminate the capitalist system as fundamentally incompatible with democratic ideals and with social support systems. They believe the state should own and operate the means of production, distribution, etc. So, they sound the same, but they are somewhat different.

 

Roe V. Wade Isn’t Actually About Choice

Sometimes I see a meme that genuinely helps me think differently about a topic. We’ve allowed the discussion about abortion to become a discussion around the word choice. I understand the decision to focus on that word. But the fact of the matter is, the discussion about abortion should be about medical safety and health (even though there’s a problem with that right now*).

The Roe V. Wade decision occurred when I was about 15 years old. I didn’t even know it had happened, really. But, as the years passed, I learned and grew in my understanding of the issues. I’m sure there were times when I was modestly conservative on the issue (meaning it should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, woman’s life in danger, etc.) because I was politically moderately conservative in my early college years.

But, I was raised by a single mom, so my ‘women should be independent’ vibe is very strong. So, I’ve long favored a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. I have known for about 25 years that the main issue for me isn’t if women will have abortions. Women always have and will have abortions when they so choose, no matter the law. The issue is if those abortions will be safe for the woman.

I became clued-in on that perspective when a very proper woman of South Carolina heritage said at a party in a voice loud enough to carry through three rooms of the party from the table where the topic was under discussion, “We will not go back.” And the table fell silent, all heads turned, and she said, “I mean it.” That made me curious so that I was open to learning what will not go back meant. As the ensuing years passed I would be open to learning what women would go through to get abortions in the years prior to Roe V. Wade. Scenes in movies or books would include something either obliquely or directly about the bad old days: The expensive travel to far away states where it was legal for those who could afford it, the back alley ‘doctors’, the coat hangers, and the horror drugs.

That clinched it for me, all women must have access to safe and legal abortion. The choice is for the individual woman to make based on her own life circumstances, heart and mind. If you believe abortion is wrong, don’t have one. The clinic is not for you, but for the women who choose it. The mere availability of abortion does not force any woman to have one.

Over recent years the debate increasingly has been framed as Right to Life versus Choice. I was never much troubled by that because it’s not that I’m pro-abortion. I simply believe that each individual should have the choice and implicit in that choice is availability of safe and legally available abortion provisioning. Never have I (nor anyone anywhere, I’ll wager) thought: Hey abortions are available right around the corner and you are pregnant, maybe you should have an abortion instead, because Choice! That’s ludicrous, but sometimes seems to be the way the Forced Pregnancy framers (see below) want to make it look. And, the Choice frame does lend itself to such hyperbole, because its meaning has a note of trivialization of the process. “What movie should we rent? I don’t know, what are our choices?”

Right to Life vs Choice is a false framing of the debate and has lost its value, I worry. It is actually Forced Pregnancy versus Safe and Legal Access (for the dim-witted: Forced Pregnancy is the Right to Life side and Safe and Legal Access is the Choice side).

This is the meme that reminded me of what is actually at stake. I’m sure it has been around for a long time. I just happened to see it for the first time today. I’m glad I saw it, that my thinking was renewed and it led to me writing this.

RoeVWade

So, let’s get to work making sure people understand this is about Safe and Legal Access.

*The problem is that medical safety and health concepts are being coopted by right wing politicians as justification for creative methods of restricting abortion. So, they make it so clinics must have physicians with admitting privileges at a local hospital (Texas, for example). Or, they claim in Utah that the fetus must be anesthetized to ensure it feels no pain, against evidence to the contrary and lack of evidence of effective anesthesia for a fetus. So, medical safety and health concepts are being stolen from the choice-oriented forces. They had better figure out how to prevent this from getting worse before they lose all their political ground.

You’re Fired!

Donald Trump has already made it clear he’s a angry and mean. It also appears to some that he exhorts his followers to engage in violence against non-white persons who appear at his rallies. That is a pattern also reflected in his statements that the families of terrorists and ISIS are fair targets in the war on terror. While there appears to be some backing away from killing children by Trump, the fact is, he believes that he can simply give orders and they will be followed.

Not so fast. Rarely do we see military persons get directly involved in political campaigns, yet here we are seeing the military is letting it be known that they won’t follow illegal orders. Trump says that they will follow his orders because, “I’m a leader… I’ve always been a leader, I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they are going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.”  But, that’s not what leadership is all about, at all. People follow a leader (orders) because they give over the power to lead them. Trump has already heard from those he intends to lead that they will not give over the power to lead to him.

Of course, Trump will probably just say, “You’re Fired!” to the military brass who buck his orders. They will move another one up to the position, who will be fired until eventually they find someone who is willing to ignore/bend the law to keep the high job. Trump will get his way, eventually.

We’ve seen this play out before in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre. On October 20, 1973, Nixon has realized that Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox is actually doing his job figuring out that the Watergate scandal goes all the way to the Oval Office and was seeking audio tapes from Nixon as hard evidence to support it. Nixon tells his Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox, a clear attempt to undercut a proper prosecutorial process and was counter to a promise he had made to the Congressional investigating committee. Therefore, Elliot Richardson resigns. That puts Deputy Attorney General, William Ruckelshaus in charge, who also refused Nixon and resigns (he had also promised Congress to keep hands-off Cox). That put U.S. Solicitor General Robert Bork in line to be Acting Attorney General and he was sworn in. He issued the order to fire Cox after promises from Nixon to be appointed to the Supreme Court.* Probably the only reason that eventually a new Special Prosecutor was appointed and Watergate ended up in Nixon’s resignation was that Nixon was already in the toilet that was going to flush him away. If he’d been politically stronger, more support among the public, he might have gotten his way permanently.

So, in a way, Trump is correct, he will have his orders executed, but only after the resignation or firing of several people. As history has shown, eventually he will get to someone who has ambition, lack of moral fiber, or is simply in philosophical agreement with Trump. The orders will be executed and that’s where the problem comes in. We like to imagine that Trump will simply fail in his ambitions for what he wants to do as President because he won’t be able to find people to execute illegal orders. But, he will, and that means we are all in tremendous danger should he become President.

*Side note: For any who wonder why the Democrats fought so vigorously against Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987 need only look to his actions on October 20, 1973.