In Trump’s America, Jan 20-Feb 20

If you follow the news you know it’s been a hectic month in the United States. Trump’s presidency has been riddled with protests, controversies, and a cascade of executive orders. I’ll be writing one of these posts every month with links to the “news highlights” of that month that relate to the President, his cabinet, and his orders.

Executive Orders

Total of 11 executive orders (if you don’t count the Muslim ban since federal courts ruled against it).

Big Stories

Silencing the EPA

Sean Spicer scolds the media during his first press conference

Kellyanne Conway coins the term “alternative facts”

Federal appeals court rules against the Muslim Ban 

Kellyanne Conway cites Bowling Green Massacre that never happened

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigns over conversations with Russian ambassador 

Trump advisor Stephen Miller turns hype-man

Trump tells Netanyahu to “hold off on settlements for a bit”  Trump says he can live with a one-state or two-state solution in Israeli-Palestinian deal

Trump scolds reporter for asking about claims that his campaign spurred anti-Semitism

Trump makes Sweden terror comment

Petty Politics

My dad is an old school Cuban; born right before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, he witnessed enough crimes committed by the Castro Regime to despise anything that resembles communism. My great grandfather immigrated to Cuba from Catalonia, Spain in the late 1800s, my grandfather built on the work of his father, and my father was destined to do the same. But as a child, my dad had to watch as the Castro Regime took his family’s businesses, lands, and any surplus my grandparents and great grandparents had ever worked for and distributed it to people who hadn’t earned it. My dad had to watch as the Castro militia murdered by firing squad anyone who opposed the revolutionaries. As a result, my dad had nothing but grit to his name when he left Cuba in the early eighties (grit that you can still see today). When he arrived to America he saw the land of opportunity and the chance to rebuild a legacy the way my great grandfather did when he had arrived in Cuba from Spain. My dad, by all accounts, achieved the American Dream and he is the perfect example of what it means to be a hard-worker and to put family first.

Back when my dad emigrated from Cuba to the U.S., the U.S. president was Ronald Reagan. Reagan was an anti-communist roast master and a champion for amnesty and immigration; that combination was all it took to make my dad a loyal Republican for decades to come. In 2007, my dad voted for John McCain (in spite of his VP pick) who is one of the most stand-up, honorable republicans I’ve had the pleasure to watch; I’m a registered Independent, and while I don’t agree with everything the republicans (or democrats) believe, I know a decent human being when I see one.

John McCain was the last presidential nominee my dad voted for who was a republican.

If you ask my dad why he doesn’t vote republican anymore he’ll tell you it’s because there aren’t any decent republicans running against the democrats for the oval. My dad has an immeasurable amount of respect for the office of the president and he finds it impossible to stand behind any person or party that doesn’t hold the office of the president to the same high standard. While both parties can be “petty,” one party outdoes the other in pettiness (the republicans were staunch against helping the Obama administration make changes, and are now staunchly silent at the Trump administration’s serious faults).

I want to see a lot of changes in Washington, and if the next four years serve only to make the condition of Washington worse, then I have hope that within the next ten years we can see it get that much better. I know that our government can work, but we need to elect people who will fight for everyone and do so with integrity. And that starts with us, the voters. That means hearing each other out, that means compromise, that means meeting somewhere in the middle, that means respect, that means no name-calling. I really can’t wait to see a Reagan or McCain type of Republican run for president. Those are the kind of republicans who respect the oval and respect the American people. Until then, my dad and I are voting blue.

On The Muslim Ban

“I am in love with every church
And mosque
And temple
And any kind of shrine
Because I know it is there
That people say the different names
Of the One God.”
— Hafiz
We are a nation founded on religious freedom. We are a nation of immigrants. The Muslim ban is not only morally wrong, it is unconstitutional, illegal, and un-American.

The Greatest Lie Ever Told

If you were to be diagnosed with cancer with 97% of doctors saying that you have cancer and 3% of doctors saying that you don’t have cancer, would you seek treatment or would you risk dying from it? Or worse yet, would you tell them, “that’s ridiculous because cancer does not exist?”

Something I hear a lot about climate change is that yes, 97% of climate scientists have confirmed the human impact of climate change BUT there’s still 3% of climate scientists that claim climate change is either not happening or that it is happening but is not expedited by human activity (animal agriculture, burning coal, oil, etc.). The growing trend now is to believe that 97% of scientists have a reason to lie, which is to say that if 97% of scientists tell us how to cure cancer, HIV, Zika Virus, or any other sort of virus or ailment, we are to believe they don’t have these cures, that these are lies.

The myth about climate change is the idea that climate change can be a matter of belief when it is in reality based entirely on research, on facts. Religion is a matter of belief, science is not.

There are people who take articles from the 3% of climate change scientists who deny the impact of human activity on climate change (or deny climate change altogether) and use them to feed into the agendas of those who stand to gain the most from climate change denial (big oil billionaires, CEOs, lobbyists for animal agriculture, etc.) rather than listening to the 97% of scientists who stand to gain/lose nothing by telling the truth, whose only pursuit is knowledge. To these people I have two questions: why are you letting them lie to you? They know the truth, they know the human impact on climate change but it behooves them to lie about, it is entirely to their benefit. And hey, maybe you know they’re lying. Maybe you think that lying will get you your job back. Maybe that’s all you care about. Maybe you’ll lie until better jobs exist for you. And honestly, if you have mouths to feed I can’t completely villainize you for that, especially if these coal, oil, and animal agriculture jobs are all you’ve ever known. But I’m calling climate change denial for what it is, a lie.

 

Does Trickle-Down Economics Work For The Middle Class?

When I was a first year economics student in college, one of the first things we learned about was the difference between Trickle-up (Keynesian) and Trickle-down (aka supply side) Economics. The economy is, in general, susceptible to booms and busts (expansions and recessions), but is supply-side economics the economic system that promotes the best outcome?

After the Reaganomics and Clintonomics eras in the 80s and 90s, neoliberalism became one of the most favored among economic ideas, but whether or not tax rates should be higher or lower continues to be a subject debated among government leaders who choose to adopt the neoliberal model. Graphs depicting the GDP growth rate of the economy as well as the unemployment rate show that the relationship between the GDP growth rate and the rate of unemployment in the U.S. have an inverse relationship (if the nation’s GDP growth rate increases, the unemployment rate decreases). In other words, if the economy is growing, more people will have jobs. BUT what these figures don’t show is how policies for trickle-down economics contribute to these trends and whether these policies help the middle class. These economic indicators of GDP, GDP growth rates, and rates of unemployment are often used in favor of the arguments for trickle-down economic policies, but these economic trends are deceptive indicators when they are used in the argument for the middle class. What we should be looking at are the differences in income and wages after changes in tax cuts (one of the cornerstones of trickle-down economics) which show us that wages don’t go up and incomes remain the same.

The fact is that the intuition of trickle-down is incorrect. Tax cuts increase wealth inequality because most of the growth in GDP during these tax cut years go almost entirely to the country’s highest earners (aka the top 0.1 percent). Not to mention the fact that the financial gains of individuals in this small “top earning” bracket are steadily increasing despite tax increases in recent years. This means that the top earners earn top dollars regardless of tax cuts. What tax cuts do is allow for these earners to make money more speedily but these gains are not “trickling down” to the middle class.

Investing directly into the middle class is the best way of helping the middle class. How do we do this? We need to invest more in education. Every child needs access to free early childhood education (aka Pre-kindergarten). Children who have access to this early education demonstrate higher abilities than children who start school in Kindergarten; the way things are now, inequality begins at ages 3 and 4. Then, there’s the issue of the quality of public education. If we can’t train children and teenagers to compete against those who have access to private school, how will we ever expect the middle class to grow? By revolutionizing the way we do public education, we can improve the solvency of the middle class. This means government investment into education, which requires appropriating tax dollars into this sector. Tax cuts won’t help us build better public schools, since we’ll have less tax dollars to appropriate to education. If we don’t improve public education, the chances of children born into middle class families of staying in the middle class decrease because their chances of actually competing against children and teenagers whose parents can afford private school dwindles.

The economy will grow regardless of tax cuts, unemployment will decrease regardless of tax cuts; the only thing tax cuts do is allow for the top earners to pocket more money at a faster rate. The ratio of CEO to employee salaries demonstrates this inherent inequality; employee wages have remained relatively the same while CEO salaries have continued to skyrocket (this happens regardless of tax cuts). Trickle-down technically does work (by making earning more expedient for the top 1 percent), just not for the middle class.

How CNN Can Re-Legitimize Its News Coverage In A Trump Presidency

EDIT: This post is meant to be constructive criticism for CNN. I enjoy watching CNN, I don’t believe they are “fake news,” and I am not a conservative, but I see how and why CNN’s coverage is being misconstrued by the right.  

The mainstream media has been under fire as a result of its 2016 election news coverage, with many viewing the media’s endorsements of presidential candidate Hilary Clinton as clouding the legitimacy of the news reported by those media outlets.

News organizations like Fox News and Breitbart have been mocked for years due to their blatantly biased news coverage, analyzing everything through the conservative, republican lens. Now, longstanding reputable media organizations, like CNN, that have previously been known to lean left are now demonstrating an explicit bias for the liberal, progressive agenda. Don’t get me wrong, they are preaching to the choir with me, but they are quickly becoming the Fox News of the left (leave that to MSNBC).

You don’t have to watch CNN for too long to know that Chris Cuomo, Dana Bash, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Don Lemon and other CNN news anchors are Democrats; that’s a problem because CNN is a news organization not a late-night show. Interrupting a guest mid sentence — it doesn’t matter if they’re lying, if they’re sugar-coating something egregious, or if they say something you just don’t agree with –it severely affects the way the reporting is  perceived by the audience. While the anchors may think interrupting helps deter the narrative of the person they’re interrupting, it only makes the anchor/interrupter seem hot-headed and temperamental (the same way we see Fox News anchors when they become irately passionate as they preach their conservative agendas). Wait for the guest to finish speaking, then counter them with the facts. If I’m being fair, I have seen CNN news anchors attempt to combat lies with the truth but they go about it the wrong way. Instead of asking guests if they believe a fact is true, tell them what the facts are and proceed from there. What I’ve seen guests do is take advantage of the anchor presenting a fact as a question. For example, an anchor may ask their guest “Do you think the sun rises in the morning?” Then the guest answers by saying, “No, the sun does not rise in the morning.” This happens all the time on CNN. If the anchor begins the discussion by questioning the facts or presenting them as a matter of opinion, how are people expected to accept facts for what they are?

This Trump presidency gives an unprecedented challenge against the truth. The Trump presidency encourages fake news because the truth is inconvenient for them. CNN has to fight this by staying objective, by making their anchors as neutral as possible, by not only bringing in commentators from both sides but by giving equal speaking time to both sides (the right has some good ideas every now and then. Let’s encourage listening to each other and working together). The anchor shouldn’t frequently interrupt their guests, speak over them, or speak down to them, the anchor should present the facts and correct someone if they have said something that isn’t true.

Additionally, CNN news anchors need to stop showing elitism. If someone on CNN is making fun of a person’s conservative views, level of education, or lack of complexity in their speech, do you really think an audience member with the same conservative views, level of eduction, and uncomplicated speech as the person CNN is making fun of will sit there and listen to CNN when they could just change the channel to Fox News? I’ve seen CNN be smug only a handful of times, but that alone is enough to deter someone with opposing views to totally dismiss the news organization as a whole.

Racism Through the Lens of 1944 France

2016 has brought, as Charlamagne Tha God has said (yes I am quoting him), “the issue of race into the minds of a generation that wasn’t even thinking about it.” The president-elect of the United States wasn’t short of racial slurs during his campaign to the White House, and as someone who is considered “of color,” his rhetoric struck a nerve with me. The disillusionment brought on by this election–realizing, among other things, that many people are still racist in a 2016 America–prompted me to do some heavy research on the topic of race. The most illuminating piece of media that I can recommend to anybody who is interested in this topic is the essay Anti-Semite and Jew by Jean-Paul Sarte, published in 1946 shortly after France was liberated from German occupation. This essay not only illuminates the silliness of racists themselves, but the ineffectual passivity of self-proclaimed defenders of equality during this time.

The eloquence with which Jean-Paul Sarte articulates the climate of a 1944 France, a country that, having been rid of Jews for some time, was facing a civil dichotomy where those who struggled against anti-Semitism and those who struggled against democracy coexisted in a post-war state in which the struggle against anti-Semitism won and Jews were invited back into the country. But anti-Semitism doesn’t just disappear after anti-Semites lose a war.

As I read the English translation of this essay, I highlighted some important text.

On anti-Semitism being an opinion:

This word opinion makes us stop and think. It is the word a hostess uses to bring to an end a discussion that threatens to become acrimonious. It suggests that all points of view are equal; it reassures us, for it gives an inoffensive appearance to ideas by reducing them to the level of tastes. All tastes are natural; all opinions are permitted. Tastes, colors, and opinions are not open to discussion. In the name of democratic institutions, in the name of freedom of opinion, the anti‐Semite asserts the right to preach the anti‐Jewish crusade everywhere.

On debating the anti-Semite:

Never believe that anti‐Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors.

On the anti-Semite who is convinced superiority is their birth right:

We must remember that a man is not necessarily humble or even modest because he has consented to mediocrity. On the contrary, there is a passionate pride among the mediocre, and anti‐Semitism is an attempt to give value to mediocrity as such, to create an elite of the ordinary.

Besides this, many anti‐Semites — the majority, perhaps — belong to the lower middle class of the towns; they are functionaries, office workers, small businessmen, who possess nothing. It is in opposing themselves to the Jew that they suddenly become conscious of being proprietors: in representing the Jew as a robber, they put themselves in the enviable position of people who could be robbed.

Thus I would call anti‐Semitism a poor man’s snobbery.

On the anti-Semite and the democrat:

Thus the anti‐Semite and the democrat tirelessly carry on their dialogue without ever understanding one another or realizing that they are not talking about the same things. If the anti‐Semite reproaches the Jew for his avarice, the democrat will reply that he knows Jews who are not avaricious and Christians who are. But the anti‐Semite is not moved. What he meant was that there is a “Jewish” avarice, an avarice determined by that synthetic whole, the Jewish person. He can agree without embarrassment that it is possible for certain Christians to be avaricious, for to him Christian avarice and Jewish avarice are not the same. To the democrat, on the contrary, avarice has a certain universal and invariable nature that can be added to the ensemble of the traits which make up an individual and still remain the same under all circumstances. There are not two ways of being avaricious: one is or one is not.

On the anti-Semite’s affect on the Jewish psyche:

…the Jew, an “intruder” into French society, is compelled to remain isolated. If he does not consent, he is insulted. But if he consents, he is no more readily assimilated on that account; he is tolerated — and always with a distrust that drives him on each occasion to “prove himself.”

Thus the Jew, if he is to be left in peace, should be mobilized ahead of other people; in case of famine, he should be hungrier than others; if a general disaster strikes the country, he should be the one whom it hits hardest.

Stekel, along with several other psychoanalysts speaks of a “Jewish complex,” and many are the Jews who mention their “inferiority complex.” I see no harm in using this expression if we understand that this complex has not been received from the outside and that Jew creates this complex when he chooses to live his situation in an inauthentic manner. He (the Jew) has allowed himself to be persuaded by the anti‐Semites; he is first victim of their propaganda.