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Happy Black History Month, No Voting Rights for You

It is hard to make since out of what’s been going on in United States with regard to voting rights over the last year or so. Yes, in spite of Fox News stating that the 2020 election was stolen, Joe Biden did, in fact, win that election. The election was close in Arizona. Republicans cried foul and decided that they would hire a company with no election experience to recount all the votes in Maricopa County, a Democratic stronghold. The funny thing is that their fraudulent recount actually showed that Joe Biden did when Maricopa County. So, instead of figuring out how they can appeal to more voters, Republicans have decided to change the rules. As of December, 19 states have passed 34 laws restricting voting. Early voting, which improves access to voting for the poor, has been reduced. A couple of states have even passed laws to allow partisan ballot reviews after voters have voted. You don’t have to have great imagination to see that in the states if these partisan reviewers don’t like your ballot for whatever reason, your ballot will be thrown out. Oh, and don’t expect the courts to bail you out.

2020 was a re-districting year. This means that every state, once they get the census data, can redraw its districts. In theory, the purpose of this is to make sure that everyone is equally represented. In actuality, redistricting is used as a tool to dilute the power of the poor and minorities. The technique of gerrymandering is actually quite simple when you have the demographic data that we now have at our fingertips. With fairly simple mapping programs, it’s possible to figure out average income, race, single-parent or multi-parent household for every state, every county, city, ZIP Code and neighborhood. More sophisticated programs can break down the United States block by block.

Let’s say that you would like to dilute the liberal vote in Asheville. How would you do that? Well, there are multiple different ways. First of all, you can break Asheville up into four separate districts. Extend those districts into the surrounding areas which are more conservative. Make sure that you include more conservatives than liberals in every single district. This way, no matter how motivated liberals are to get out and vote, the game is rigged against them. The second way you can gerrymander a district is make one large district, Asheville, liberal. Then, make five or six of the surrounding districts conservative but each of these districts have significantly less people. They will be over represented at the state level while the huge Asheville district will be under represented at the state level. Both methods are grossly unfair.

We need national standards for developing districts. We need one standard that is applied equally across all 50 states. We also need voting to be easier for everyone. We need early voting. We need voting on Saturdays. Voting for major elections should be a national holiday. This would be the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Both these bills have passed the House. Both of these bills have died in the Senate. If we are going to live in a democracy, we need fairness in our districts and we need access to the polls. Simply put, the Democrats did not get it done. Sure, not one Republican voted for this common sense legislation. But, at the end of the day, the Democrats had an opportunity to do something truly historic and meaningful for the United States.

The Stock Market and Crypto Currency
About 30 or 40 years ago, there is a book called Grow Rich Slowly. The book discussed how you could wisely begin investing money when you’re 25. You regularly put money into your investment account. You then pour that money into stocks. You put blinders on and don’t jump into the highly risky, new shiny stocks, but instead stay with the blue-chip stocks like IBM, General Motors and the like. Over 20 or 30 years, you would have a nice nest egg and you’re ready to retire.

When I read the book, I was about 30 years old. I thought I was a little behind the timeline but, I can make this up. The problem with this whole theory is that it assumes that you live modestly and have $3000 to $5000, every month, to invest in your future. This also assumes that you don’t have any unexpected expenses. You don’t get sick. Your daughter does not want to have a nice wedding. You never get fired. You also must stay at the same job and live in the same house because switching jobs and changing houses can cost lots of money. (Unless you are my sister, she has moved 10 or 15 times in the last 30 years and has never lost money. I don’t know how she does it.)

Instead, we need to be honest with each other. Sure, you can invest everything you have in a stock that no one’s heard of and it could skyrocket overnight. If that happens to you, congratulations! You’re a millionaire. For the most part, the stock market is for the rich. (I know I’m not supposed to say that out loud.) They have tons of extra cash lying around. They can invest millions. They can let their millions grow at 3 to 5% per year. Basically, they’re using millions to make millions. Laws have been passed so that huge swings in the stock market are rare. If you are a millionaire, you have to take unreasonable risks in order to lose your millions. (Even then, there are things like derivatives to help minimize even the riskiest bets.) On the other hand, if you invest $200 and your investment goes wild and grows at 25% per year and you put in $200 every year for 5 years, you will have $2662.11. Are you ready to retire? No real investment is going to give you 25% per year. Now let’s do the calculation with a more realistic 3% per year. You have $1325.54 at the end of 5 years, but you put in $1000.

One of the funniest things about investing is looking at these investment growth charts. Almost all of them start off with an investment of $50,000. Who has $50,000 lying around? If you do, good for you.

Let me talk about crypto for just a second. If you’re sitting around at home and trading American dollars for Japanese yen or the English pound, then crypto currency may be for you. On the other hand, if you can’t figure out how you can make money trading one currency for another then why would you be interested in crypto currency? I am not a money guy, but it seems to me that crypto has been designed to suck money out of your pocket, quickly and efficiently then put your money into somebody’s pocket. In most transactions, at least you know who’s ripping you off. In crypto currency you have no idea. Recently, I heard a commercial in which you can invest from your retirement account into crypto currency. I’m sorry, I can’t think of a worse idea. I think it is safer to flush your retirement money down your toilet than invest in crypto but I’m probably biased.

A couple of things
I really don’t have any idea what’s going on with Russia. I know that Vladimir Putin loves power. I know that he wants to be perceived as one of the world’s most powerful man. He wants Russia to be seen by the world as a superpower just like the United States. The last thing I heard was that Russia was amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. The United States is sending troops to NATO in order to counteract this nonsense. If any of this remind you of the Cuban missile crisis, it should. This could be extremely bad.

As some of you know, I love football. I love the competition. I love the athleticism. I love the bravado. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember playing football in junior high school and I really wanted to play quarterback. Although the coach let me take some snaps at quarterback, he was really pushing me to play wide receiver. At the time, there were no black quarterbacks in the NFL. There was a perception that the quarterback was the most cerebral of football players and a black man would not be capable. Fast forward to now, there is no doubt that a black man can play quarterback in the NFL. As a matter fact, some teams are actively changing their offenses in order to take advantage of the skills of the extremely athletic black quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson.

Black coaches are a different thing entirely. If, we thought that Blacks could not be quarterbacks, that it is hundred percent clear that Blacks cannot be coaches. The NFL has been reluctant to hire Black coaches. As a matter fact, some teams have gone so far as to hire coaches who have clearly failed in the NFL rather than to give a Black coach a chance. The NFL does not like to be in court. The NFL does not like to have the spotlight shined upon it. Brian Flores, the former Black coach of the Miami Dolphins, has sued the league for discrimination. I have no idea how this is going to work out. All I can tell you is that this is going to get ugly. The NFL will probably get a black eye over this. Remember, that the NFL is nothing but a small collection of billionaires. The NFL is 32 billionaires who each own a single team. Basically, billionaires make up the rules and they do what they want. It is going to be hard for a court of law to make billionaires bend to their will. All I know is that we must keep working hard. We must look out for each other. We must keep each other safe (Covid has not gone away). Finally, we must keep fighting to make America a better place. Happy Black history month!

By |2022-08-19T08:48:53-04:00August 19th, 2022|Civil Rights, Elections, Foreign Affairs|0 Comments

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)

(I wrote this for the Urban News, January 2021)

It was almost 11 months ago when I wrote about TDS or Trump Derangement Syndrome. It is that is the feeling that falls over you when multiple conservatives have repeatedly lied to you. It is a combination of nausea, disgust, and anger—overlaid with frustration.

Recently, the lies have been flowing like the mighty Mississippi river. If there were an Olympic category for lying, Trump would be a gold-medal decathlete. If, for some reason, you thought that he would crawl into his gold-plated Mar-a-Lago hole and disappear because he lost the general election, you were, and are sadly mistaken. His crazy, stupid, paranoid, delusional and un-American tactics to overturn the election results have been overwhelming.

I could go over the list of more than 60 lawsuits that Trump and his allies have filed in state and federal courts since the election. For the most part, Trump and the GOP have lost all their “legal” challenges. All of them. What I thought was the boldest and most un-American move was when Donald Trump invited a group of Republican members of the Michigan state legislature to the White House, where he tried to pressure them into overturning the election. In what can only be called an act of patriotism and duty, the Michigan legislators, after meeting with Trump, stated in a joint press conference that they had not seen any information that would change the outcome.

Our Democracy

Conservatives always like to point out that we don’t actually live in a democracy but a “constitutional republic.” For the most part, this difference is meaningless. Our Constitution is set up so that our government is chosen by its citizens—a democracy—and works within a system of checks and balances reflecting its different governing parts—a republic.

For example, if the president tries to overstep his authority, Congress and the Supreme Court have the power to reign in the president. Also, states have authority over certain rules and laws that the federal government cannot override—including how to run elections.

But over the past four years, those checks and balances have been stretched to the limit. Trump requires everyone to be loyal to him personally, or be fired. He believes they take an oath of office to obey him, not the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Unfortunately, our founding fathers did not have an answer for this. They did not foresee all three branches of government being taken over by one person.

In my opinion, our democracy is in trouble. The rule of law is in peril. This is not like after Watergate when Americans, overwhelmingly, rejected Nixon and the Republicans who supported him. Instead, we have a large swath of Americans who believe and support the lies of Trump.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has stated his plan to publicly object to the Electoral College being free and fair. He’s been joined by eleven other Republican senators: Cruz of Texas, Johnson (WI), Lankford (OK), Daines (MT), Kennedy (LA), Blackburn (TN) and Braun (IN), and four newly elected senators who took their seats Jan. 3—Cynthia Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), Bill Hagerty (TN) and Tommy Tuberville (AL).

Their objection to Biden’s election will cause contentious votes in the Senate. More importantly, I think it causes more and more Americans to distrust our system. I have no idea how we get the trust back. I don’t think that there’s anything that Biden/Harris can do or say that would sow the seeds of trust in those who have swallowed the nonsense of the Trump administration. Without trust, our democracy will fall apart.

Coronavirus

As a nation, we continue to be in the midst of the worst pandemic in over 100 years. The Trump administration has inexplicably chosen to downplay the virus at every turn. Trump himself explained to best-selling author Bob Woodward last January that he always wanted to downplay the virus—because he didn’t want to cause a “panic.” Well, what he has caused instead is millions of infections which were completely preventable. Over three hundred thousand Americans have died, many because of mismanagement and misinformation. Trump’s refusal to wear a mask or endorse mask wearing has itself killed tens of thousands of Americans. The simple wearing of masks saves lives. This is a fact.

Now it appears that we have two effective vaccines. Yet, because Republicans hate government, it is near impossible for them to make the government work effectively. Back in August or September, the Trump administration knew that the vaccine from Pfizer and the vaccine from Moderna appeared to be on track for FDA approval. This is when “Operation Warp Speed” should have begun comprehensive planning on how to get the vaccine to hundreds of millions of Americans quickly. This is a huge logistical nightmare. (more…)

By |2021-01-15T21:55:59-04:00January 15th, 2021|Congress, Elections, Healthcare|Comments Off on Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)

Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church

(I wrote this for the Urban News in December 2020.)

I’m exhausted. I’m physically and mentally spent. The past six months have been draining. Almost every minute of every day I spent wondering what bizarre, crazy, cockamamie, cruel tweet and/or policy was Donald Trump going to implement today.

Were we going to lock immigrant children in outdoor prisons in Alaska? Was the Supreme Court or any number of federal judges going to strike down Obamacare? Was it going to be okay to dump coal waste in my front yard or possibly in our national parks?

Then, just to prolong the pain and suffering, the election was not over on November 3. It took four more days for projections to declare a winner. I could’ve cried big, huge crocodile tears but I did not. I rolled up my sleeves and asked, “What’s next?”

Hillsong Church

I have only gone to a couple of alternative church services in my life. In my opinion, the services were short on sermons but there was a lot of singing and fellowship. I like more traditional church services. Hillsong Church is one of these mega-churches. It started in Australia and now has churches (branches) in six continents.

Celebrities like Kevin Durant and Selena Gomez have been seen at the church. Pastor Carl Lentz, the leader of the New York branch, had a personal relationship with Justin Bieber! Now, you have to say that’s cool—or at least TMZ thinks so. Lentz had been mentored by Brian Houston, the founder of Hillsong.

But then there seemed to be a loss of focus. There was lying, cheating, and infidelity. Early last month, Carl Lentz was fired from Hillsong Church. In an Instagram post, the pastor said, “I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life.”

This statement is a little jarring coming from a pastor. Wouldn’t you figure that his most important relationship would be with God first, and his wife second? Maybe I’m wrong.

To me, there are a lot of similarities between Donald Trump, the Hillsong Church, and pastor Carl Lentz. Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church seem to focus on superficial appearances. Smiles and a good photo op are more important than sitting in any “stupid” policy meeting. Being friends with Justin Bieber seem to be more important than the tenets of Christianity— honesty, fidelity, and humility.

We all remember Donald Trump clearing the street so that he could walk across Lafayette Square, unimpeded by protesters, and wave a Bible in his hand (upside down) for a photo opportunity as he stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Trump has lied. He has lied about just about everything you and I can think of, and he is still lying.

Of course, I may be wrong about Carl Lentz. He may be a great guy and fantastic pastor who just lost his way. I know I’m not wrong about Donald Trump.

Trump

Trump and his incessant whining about the election are like that child who keeps asking if he can have a cookie after being told “NO!” three or four times. (Trump and the child both need to be sent to their room.)

Trump and his accomplices have come up with one conspiracy theory after another. He has filed one lawsuit after another and lost in court time after time, but he continues. Why lie and insist that he won the election which he lost by over 7 million votes?

Maybe he truly believes that former Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez (who died seven years ago) infiltrated Smartmatic (a company that supplied voting machines to only a single US county); released a computer virus that changed Trump votes to Biden votes; and covered its tracks so well that no Republican or Democrat noticed the problem—oh, and did this only in states where Trump lost.

Or maybe his whining has a purpose. Maybe Trump understands that he is in legal jeopardy. He is sending out email after email to his supporters begging for money. Maybe Trump can’t simply ask for money in a straightforward fashion. Maybe the only way that he can shake millions of dollars out of his flock—$207.5 million between Nov. 3 and Dec. 3—is with these stupid conspiracy theories.

Maybe Trump is ending his presidency as he began it, with a grift. Several federal agencies are looking into his inaugural committee which took in $107 million dollars but has not accounted for its spending. Now, as Trump exits the White House, he again is vacuuming up money from his followers.

At work a couple of weeks ago, one of the anesthesiologists was sitting across from me in the surgeons’ lounge. He wanted to know why I supported Joe Biden. He asked me to explain my support without mentioning Donald Trump. I just smiled and took a deep breath:

Joe Biden will take the coronavirus seriously. Joe Biden will restore the NATO alliance. Joe Biden will work toward universal healthcare and will strengthen Obamacare. Biden will help America rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and help you and me have cleaner air to breathe and have clean water to boat, fish, or drink. He will fight for social justice and help reform our justice system so that there are far fewer George Floyds. He will get our economy on track, and he will tax the wealthy. Biden will never call White supremacists “good people.” He will work to end corporate welfare. He will work with Democrats and Republicans and find some way to reform our immigration policy.

Not a bad list of reasons, after all. (more…)

By |2021-01-08T14:37:25-04:00January 8th, 2021|Elections, Healthcare, Party Politics|Comments Off on Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church
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