Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Comments on the Obama-Trump Transition

Written on January 8th, 11th through 13th, and 17th and 18th, 2017
            On the evening of January 10th, 2017 - the same night that Obama gave his farewell address from McCormick Place in Chicago - I attended a Steve Earle concert elsewhere in the same city.
Guitarist and vocalist Earle told the audience that he was sad to see Obama go. Earle dedicated a song to Obama, said "I don't mind the drones", and added that he thinks Hillary Clinton is smart.
I've never seen so many people pat themselves on the back for helping to elect "the first black president" as I did last night. Do they do that all the time? Have they ever stopped to consider that to call a mixed-race person "black" - when he does have white heritage - could be perceived as labeling Obama a non-white "other"?
            On the way out of Earle's show, I heard someone who attended the concert tell his friend that Obama dropped 26,000 bombs within some time frame or another. Remember, Barack Obama renewed the same kind of steadily increasing Israeli aid package that George W. Bush signed, expanded troop presence in 40 countries in Africa, and failed to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
            As confident as I am that Trump will destroy the lives of Palestinians (and undocumented immigrants) more than President Obama has, I'm still not sad to see Obama go. Obama's true legacy will be remembered as electing Trump, and making him look good by comparison; just as Hillary Clinton's legacy is making Nixon look good by comparison.
Obama was able to replace U.S. soldiers in Iraq with mercenaries (also called private security contractors), as well as with U.S. soldiers working for private security contracting firms. This allowed liberal media to skew the numbers about U.S. troop levels in Iraq, because the number of U.S. soldiers had technically drastically declined, while the level of total Western security agents remained more numerous than the public was aware several years into the Obama Administration.
Additionally, failed to close Guantanamo like he pledged, failed to reverse the growth of executive power and reverse the damage done to due process in the wake of 9/11. Obama didn't reverse the attack on civil liberties as he promised; he continued to detain alleged enemy combatants who were found not guilty, and his orders resulted in the deaths of American citizens abroad - adult and of minor age alike - without charges and without due process.
Barack Obama's drone strike orders have resulted in the deaths of children; in Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. During the Obama Administration, military experts complained about the high number of civilian casualties the military was prepared to risk in order to take out medium-value targets.
Trump says he likes Obama, although they have some disagreements. On the health policy front, Trump has said that he wants universal health care. But he has also stated that he wants to get rid of the lines around the states, that make it impossible for people to purchase health insurance policies across state lines, even when those policies comply with the regulations of the state of the policy buyer's residence. Trump has also said that he wants to keep the provision of Obamacare that prohibits insurance companies from denying people based on pre-existing conditions.
To recap, Trump has stated a desire for universal health care, said Big Pharma is "getting away with murder", and wants to keep the Pre-Existing Conditions provision. This is not a right-wing position on health insurance; it is a welfare-warfare-statist one. So, people with pre-existing conditions, despite my objections to Trump's and Obama's shared position on this, have no fear about being denied coverage.
But to those of you who support Obama more than Trump on health: are you going to attribute every treatment you receive over the next four years to Donald Trump, the same way you did with Obama? You've heard that Trump might just keep most of Obamacare but change it slightly and call it Trumpcare, right? Obama isn't Imhotep (the Egyptian god of medicine), and Trump isn't either. Appreciate the doctors who help you; not the politicians who say they want to help you but can do nothing but get in the way.
Obamacare did as much to hurt health insurance companies and young insurance subscribers as it did to help them. It bound all citizens together into territorially determined health insurance pools, and makes a mockery of what the federal role ought to be in ensuring that free enterprise in the medical industries survives.
I don't drink alcohol, and yet I have to be in the same health insurance pool as people who drink alcohol. I have to pay for retirees and seniors who drink, to stay alive on Medicare and Social Security, while I probably won't get mine. I have to work to pay for them to live forever, when I can't even manage to convince them that living forever will soon be medically possible. So as a result, they're demanding to live forever, while insisting on living as if they're dying.
They consume diet sodas and artificial sweeteners, and sulfites in cheap subsidized pork and in wines. They drive drunk on the nice, smooth roads we have - that the alcohol sales taxes probably pay for - putting myself, themselves, and their loved ones and neighbors in danger in the process. They get to live irresponsibly, while my generation gets stuck with the bill, deprived of our entitlements, payment still forced on those who don't even want those benefits, while the Baby Boomers deride Millennials as lazy and entitled.
I did not give Baby Boomers heart disease and cancer; their ignorance and naïveté about F.D.A. standards is their own fault. They ignore what our generation has to say about food safety, they rub elbows with well-paid yes-men who tell managers who poison our foods, and they have difficulty conceiving of the way future technologies will affect the economy and regulations. I already have to listen to them give me unsolicited advice that only made sense in 1979; I shouldn't have to help take care of them.
But that's not to say I don't want to be in the same insurance pool as people with pre-existing conditions; I do, I just want to be in the same pool as sick people whom I know and trust, not people who live thousands of miles away from me, whom I will never meet.
I won't miss Obama, and you shouldn't either. When politicians can sweep future expenses under the rug, and delay payments to our creditors, the deficit will look smaller. All the statistics about Obama improving the budget deficit and the employment rate are deliberately distorted, and the importance of the strength of the Dow Jones to the needs of average Americans is overblown. If you don't know what Major Fiscal Exposure is – or don't know the difference between unemployment and non-employment, and how they're measured - then you've been deceived.
Labor force participation and home ownership are down since 2009, and although the deficit is the lowest it's been under Obama, it's higher than it was under Bush in 2008, and the national debt is higher than ever (having almost doubled since Obama entered office).
The dichotomy used to characterize the Obama-Trump transition has been overblown. Trump is not far-right; and Obama is not far-left. Neither of them offer a perfect world, nor anything close to it; they each only offer trade-offs. The best that either of them can do is move their food around their plate; shuffle our nation's problems around, so that the set of problems becomes 50% different every four years.
I gave Obama a chance, he failed to live up to his promises, so I won't miss him. I'll give Trump a chance, most of his promises are ridiculous so I don't care whether he lives up to his promises, he'll solve a few problems but start a whole bunch of new ones, and I won't miss him when he goes either. So I say good riddance to Barack Obama, and "don't let Mrs. o'Leary's cow set you on fire on your way out of the city".
It's the new year, and we have a new president. That's not to say that we're obligated to give Trump a chance, nor are we obligated to obey his orders; I will never stop believing in the rights of non-violent resistance and conscientious objection.
What we do have an obligation to do, is to be intellectually honest and responsible with the information we take in and put out. Regardless of our political affiliation, each of us has a responsibility to one another to say what we think, and to use science and research to back it up. We should also make it clear when we're only speculating about something, versus whether our conclusions are based on said research. We must also remember that we're not responsible for what other people do, based on what we state might be true (unless we intend to incite a riot with our speech).
It's time to stop mincing words. It's time to stop blowing racist dog-whistles, and stop virtue-signaling. You can't emote your way out of a rational political discussion; nor use fear about racism and xenophobia to manipulate people, without offering substantial evidence thereof.
Trump's interactions with the media, and comments on political correctness - in addition to the rising tide of throngs of students pulling fire alarms and blocking entrances to ensure that other students can't attend conferences by persons criticizing immigration or the transgender community - mean that we simply can't do that anymore. It's dishonest, it only shows that you've stooped to the level of your political rivals, and it only opens you up to criticism, which will enhance the feeling of victimization which you would not have if you bothered to do some research.
It is no better to be ashamed of your race (or ethnicity) for bad things that other people did, than it is to be proud of your race for the good things that other people belonging to your race did. To say otherwise is to hold millions (or billions) of people collectively guilty, or collectively responsible.
We must remember that not every action called "a terrorist attack" by media are terrorist attacks. Nor is burning down a Holocaust museum "an act of free speech". We should look at recent terror attacks, but also some historical atrocities, as crimes; committed by particular individual persons, against particular individual persons, sometimes with hatred or racism as a motivator, sometimes not.
We must be intellectually honest with one another. We must not shy away from using certain words that we feel are appropriate, simply because some people out there would like to intimidate us into not using them, or into using different words.
Being privileged is not bad; everybody should have privilege. It's being spoiled - and having unequal privilege (especially when the privilege is institutional, and not meritocratic) that's the problem. We must stop calling for privileged white kids to be punished more, simply because non-white, non-privileged kids are punished so harshly. Especially if it's a victimless crime, like non-violent possession and trade of illicit drugs.
As a way to diminish the disparity in sentencing across race, Barack Obama pledged to make powder cocaine and crack cocaine offenses equally punishable. He did so, not by decreasing punishments for crack cocaine, but by increasing penalties for powder cocaine. This accomplishes nothing, aside from teaching non-violent offenders how to become violent people in order to survive in prison.
Additionally, please stop saying "mansplaining" when you mean to say "condescension". There is no need to bring someone's sex into it, when you intend to call them out for being disrespectful, because they're explaining something as if the person they're talking to is stupid. Men do that, women do that. Using the word "mansplaining" is sexist. Sorry if I'm mansplaining.
Lastly, as I explained above, don't let anyone tell you which words to use, and which words not to use; including myself. Say "mansplaining" and "privileged" all you want, just don't expect me to take you as seriously as I would someone whose diction makes sense.

I guess this has just been my little way of saying "Happy New Year".
Lastly: please quit wearing shit on your lapels. I don't need to send a visible virtue-signal to prove that I'm easy to talk to. Every time I hear people bickering about whether Obama is wearing his American flag pin, or see people wearing safety pins, all I can think about is Nazi armbands and yellow stars of David. Remember, the Jews in Germany wore those stars willingly, because they chose to see being compelled to wear them as honorific. Check out a little movie from 1981 called The Wave.
I close with the immortal words of Huey Freeman (a character on Aaron McGruder's animated show The Boondocks), who said, "Act like you've got some goddamn sense, people!"

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