On the Importance of FEAR – (False Evidence Appearing Real)

On the Importance of FEAR – (False Evidence Appearing Real)

George Reed for “Clean-up On Aisle Four”

I am sad to accurately report that we now live in a fear-based culture.  We see people every day in the news and social media talking about something they are afraid might be real—or something that might have happened, or could happen.  This issue crosses both sides of the aisle and is how two great nations (Germany in the 1930’s and America in 2016) elected fascist dictators.

So what is a “culture of fear”?  It is a culture of responding to False Evidence Appearing Real. This means we act upon information that we do not have real world data to back up.  I encountered this in the Army when conducting large-scale training exercises.  Intelligence doctrine teaches that we should never assume a situation is what it appears to be on less than five corroborating sources of information.  On one occasion, my team wanted the defending unit to believe they were being attacked in the middle of the night.  Their scouts—if we were really attacking—would hear the sounds of vehicles moving in the desert, their ground radar would pick up turbine engines, their long range optics would see thermal images of hundreds of combat vehicles, and their electronic warfare unit would detect a massive upswing in the radio chatter from our unit.  Also, there would be a strategic and/or tactical *reason* for us to attack at 2 am when the desert terrain would be nigh impassable and quite perilous to stream 300 tanks along on a moonless night.

It turns out my team created charcoal pits near the line of departure to fool their thermal imaging.  We played a 400 watt stereo recording of 300 vehicles on the assault.  We had 5 people do 3 different accents each to create false radio chatter discussing the attack as being commencing.  This was only three of the 7 elements they should have been looking for, but it was enough.  The opposing commander got everyone awake and even counterattacked one of their own units.

At dawn, when the real attack happened out of the rising sun, the hapless enemy—who had survived the counter-attack nonsense—were sleep deprived, twitchy, and looking into the glare of sunlight.

We destroyed them.

Fast forward many years and I sit at my desk viewing a thousand examples like this in real time—except this is not a training exercise, this is our world we are botching up.  Here are some examples that could benefit from a tad more sentient thought and a bit less rash action.  They are in no particular order and we should all be terrified of anyone in power enacting these items as it clearly demonstrates they are blissfully free of the ravages of intelligence.

  • We have a Commander in Chief who does not attend Intel briefings, is not in the White House Situation room while attacks he has ordered take place, and spends more time golfing and tweeting than leading. Less tweeting and more listening might be in order.  Would there be fewer dead women and children in Yemen, and a patriotic Seal still there for his family?  Maybe, maybe not.  But all the agencies agreed there was insufficient Intel, and on two of the seven points of intelligence analysis we charged on in and failed.
  • We have a White House Communications presence that is the laughing-stock of the world. If they do not like a question, they call it a stupid question.  If they don’t like a story, they call it fake news.  Their President leads the charge with calling everything that does not praise him personally to be unfair reporting and fake news. To be honest, Mr. President, it is not fair.  It is not fair that the United States appears to have elected—with a good bit of Russian help—a scarlet-stuffed popinjay to the highest office in the land.  You might be surprised that we often find ourselves praying that the launch codes require more than 140 characters.
  • We have a Congress that pretends the ACA is failing. Failing is an important word.  It means it does not work at all. Well, the 24,000,000 American citizens that have healthcare today and won’t after the repeal beg to differ. Over 140,000 US Veterans who will lose GI and VA benefits, while having their war wounds and ailments declared pre-existing conditions, may soon beg to disagree.  The  over-419,000 children who receive coverage assistance for extremely expensive medical conditions will be relegated to impairment or death certainly might want to weigh in. Repealing rather than improving seems more expedient and if Paul Ryan stands at a podium—secure in his free health care—and declares that there are 3 million Americans without healthcare *because* of the ACA, and thus we have a need to repeal now and replace later, he is smoking dog food.  The numbers he cites might be correct, but the solution is a whiplash that just changes the number of people getting screwed over by 24 million to the detriment of all.  It is interesting to note that the draft plan ideas include items that will not favorably impact the 3 million lives Speaker Ryan cited.  You cannot spend a tax credit at Walgreens, and if you have a lower middle income, hiking the ceiling on a health savings account(HSA) is an insult.  HSA’s work for people with money to put in them.
  • We have a president who disenfranchised 3 million citizens of the United States with alternative lifestyle and/or gender identity. The worst part is he targeted the most defenseless element of that group—children.  Why is everyone afraid of where someone goes to relieve themselves?  The documented cases of sexual assault by CIS, republican adults against minors in the bathroom exceeds 20,000 since 2000.  The number of such assaults by transgender persons is zero.  Think also, if they did this to one minority group, when will *your* group be next?
  • Who will rid us of this troublesome wall? All putting up a 40 billion dollar, 30 foot wall does is improve the sales performance of 32 foot ladders in Mexico.  And it will take 2.4 billion per year of corn sales to Mexico and give the revenue to Brazilian farmers—not the 2 million people who make a living growing corn in the American Midwest.
  • Misdirection has been a part of carnival cons and stage magic for millennia. The fact that it is a part of how a Republican Congress and the far-right, alternative fact-generating White House do business every day should rightly terrify the average citizen.  It is not that someone might disagree with my ideas, it is that they dodge the conversation, scream fake news, and cite obscure perils that do not exist as a reason for their actions.
  • The Russians. I know the cold war bugaboo that was the Soviet Union will tend to make moderates skeptical that all the gnashing of teeth about any possibility that the Russian interference in the US is real.  Let’s look at a few points no one in the Republican Party are assuring be dealt with per reasonable process.
    • The National Security Advisor, General Flynn, lied to the Vice President after having extensive contacts with Russian officials during and after the campaign. Yes, he fell on his sword for the team, but the real issue is that this occurred and Congress refuses to investigate.
    • Presidential Nominee Donald Trump called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton during a public, televised speech. No one wants to look into that.
    • MI-6 Agents known to be highly reputable released a dossier of information that is slowly being verified. This information produces huge problems for the Trump White House, and rather than deal with it, they fired Flynn, declared it all fake news, and moved on.  This information, when verified, will show how Trump as promised 19% of the Russian State Oil company if he won the election.  This same company “sold” 19.5% of its interests (19% plus a snacky broker fee) to unknown parties shortly after the American Elections.  I am pretty sure the House oversight committee has not gotten around to checking into that one.
    • Those tax returns. There are only two real reasons to hide the tax returns.
      • Reason 1: They are fraudulent. Massive tax fraud would be of the High Crimes and Misdemeanors variety of offenses.  If they are fraudulent, Trump will never release them.
      • Reason 2: They are true. A true disclosure would show the hundreds—if not thousands—of foreign conflicts of interest present in the President’s business dealings—most of which he has not handed over to a neutral party.  If the tax returns are accurate and true, President Trump will never release them.
      • The returns will only be released if they are neither fraudulent or true…Good luck with that one…

We must ask ourselves why the republican members of congress stand at 87% having on-hand campaign funds in excess of a million dollars 32 business days into the two-year session.  We must examine the data and see that the average contributions from corporations not in the districts receiving the funds is in excess of 60 percent of money on hand.  Our Republican Congress is being bought from interests not even in their districts.  Further inquiry shows FEC reporting that reveals that 67% of republican congressional campaign funding for incumbents originates from corporations and Political Action Committees directly impacted by Congressional Committees upon which those same incumbents serve today.  That is a concerning fact, based on data, and is certainly not fake news.

We need to become a culture of Fact and Responsibility and leave the fear behind.

America the Diverse

Amanda Rae, for the “Clean-up on Aisle Four” Blog

Image result for melting pot poster

America the Diverse

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These are the words, written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus, to represent the kind and welcoming personality of “The New Colossus,” the Statue of Liberty. She understood the Statue to represent America as a whole, that we would be a kind nation that would accept all the greatness of the world that the rest of the world disregarded. In the beginning we realized that the outside of a person, their appearance, their nationality, their beliefs, none of that mattered to whether they were worth getting a chance at greatness. All good things of this Earth flowed into America. America was founded, in the beginning, by immigrants. The first ones to the United States were actually here before it was the States, and they thusly became referred to as Native Americans. When white people came here, we were immigrants, refugees rather, trying to escape the oppressive British rule and express ourselves with our own religions and own ideas. Ever since, America has accepted those from all over the world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010, 27.6% of Americans weren’t white Americans, and this percentage grows by the year. When over a third of Americans aren’t white, doesn’t it make sense to consider them and their needs? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015, people of color made up 21% of the American workforce. But America is more than just a melting pot of nationalities and races. According to UCLA’s Williams Institute in 2011, nearly 25.6 million Americans, or ~11% of the U.S. population, acknowledge some same-gender attraction, and 3.5% of adults in America identify as either gay, lesbian or bisexual. In June 2016, the Williams Institute released a survey saying that an estimated 1.4 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 4 in 10 LGBT youth don’t feel their community is accepting to LGBT people. 68% of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT from elected leaders in this country. It was not until 2015 that LGB Americans had the right to marry like the straight population has always been able to do. The lack of representation and understanding for LGBT Americans is sad in this writer’s opinion. Like it or not, we represent an important part of this society as trendsetters, leaders, celebrities, workers. As the American population shifts to be comprised of more of us that are LGBT, or people of color, companies must adapt and have a representation for the minority population within their firms. If a company employs a diverse workforce, they can tailor their service to appeal more to a society that is diversifying rapidly. Ford Motor Company, Bayer, L’Oreal, Johnson & Johnson, some of America, and the world’s, best companies all have been awarded for their level of inclusivity, or included on DiversityInc’s lists of most-inclusive companies. The statistics show, companies that are inclusive and diverse perform the best. Any reputable and performing company includes bylaws to protect their diverse workers. Not only can a company tailor their service to appeal to a diverse society, but let’s all consider what the average person cares about most from a company: the service, the product. The average person won’t care who made their sandwich, who designed their toothpaste, who fixed their car, they care about whether it’s good or whether it works. If you hire a white, straight man with no credentials or experience over a black trans woman with all the credentials and experience in the world, you only hurt your product, turning away the customer, and ultimately holding your business back. It only makes sense to employ based on merit and work ethic and treat all employees the same. If you hire a male reality TV host with no experience over a professional woman of credentials and years of experience in the field, everyone loses.
America was founded on the idea that we would be a diverse people, that we would be a people of all colors, nationalities, beliefs, and creeds. It has proven true that when you consider everyone, things are just better, we see more success, we make more money. A beautiful mind may be in anyone. Success can spring from anywhere. The person who cures cancer or AIDS, may very well be a bisexual Latino trans man. The mind that cracks the code of why the Big Bang happened may be an Asian-American gay man. After all, the person who wrote the shuttle software that put man on the moon was a woman, a person who enjoyed the “arcane novelty” of being a woman, a mother, and also writing code for MIT, a programmer named Margaret Hamilton.

We should all remember, the Statue of Liberty herself, the New Colossus, is a woman.

All Eyes On U.S.

Amanda Rae, for the “Clean-up on Aisle Four” Blog

All Eyes On U.S.

In the last several months, with the last election season, the political tides of the United States have changed drastically. Positions have changed owners, the keys have changed hands, and minds have changed philosophies. In my latest post, I discussed how things have gotten steadily more unsteady on the global scale, with nuclear powers eyeing other nuclear powers, and people in high places ignoring the threat of climate change.

“America has just elected a fascist,” said Senator Aodhán O’Riordáin of the Irish Labour Party. An online British government petition (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928) has garnered over 1,800,000 signatures in an effort to get UK Prime Minister Theresa May to withdraw her invitation to Donald Trump to visit the UK on the idea that such a state visit from someone with such ideals would be an insult to Her Majesty the Queen. Over three-thousand people showed up to the Scotland Against Trump march in downtown Edinburgh, the nation’s capital in solidarity with US protests such as #WomensMarch.

Sadly, not all of the world’s views on us are fun protest and opinionated banter. In December 2016, China flew a nuclear-capable air machine, the H-6K bomber, over the South China Seas in a display of force and ownership of the territory. It seemed to come at a time when it could be read as a direct response to Donald Trump’s view that the One China Policy need not be respected by the U.S., and that we are free to consider Taiwan its own sovereign country unless China is willing to strike deals with the U.S. regarding trade. The One China Policy is a diplomatic acknowledgement of the One China principle, the idea that Taiwan is a province of China to be reunited with the homeland. Respect for the One China Policy means that countries will do business and negotiations with Beijing, not with Taiwan, even if the business involves Taiwan. Effectively, China claims full ownership of Taiwan. In December, the Global Times, a Chinese government editorial, it was stated that the One China Policy is non-negotiable, and that Trump is “as ignorant as a child in terms of foreign policy,” and that he would be wise to “study foreign affairs humbly.” This January, on the official website of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s official armed forces, it was published that war with the U.S. is seeming to be more and more of a reality, than an idea. According to the South China Morning Post, an official from China’s Commission’s Defence Mobilisation Department stated “A war ‘within the president’s term’ or ‘war breaking out tonight’ are not just slogans, they are becoming a practical reality.” These are indeed frightening times. China is definitely nuclear-equipped, along with the U.S. and Russia, and it is quite safe to say that we are in the midst of a Pacific Cold War.

“We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years, aren’t we? There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face — and you understand how important face is — and say it’s an ancient territorial sea,” said Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, on his radio show in March of 2016. Left out of my monologue on the world’s views of the U.S. is Russia. “America is a great power. Today, probably, the only superpower. We accept that. We want to and are ready to work with the United States,” Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June of 2016. When Trump Tweeted that America must modernize and bolster our nuclear weaponry stock, Putin said in a press conference, “There is nothing new about it.” It is safe to say that Trump and Putin are seeking a nuclear ally-ship. Earlier in the same day of Trump’s nuclear Tweet, Putin said in a statement to which Trump seemed to echo, “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.”
It is only this one woman’s guess that Trump and Bannon intend to confront China over the South China Sea, with the aid of Russia, another very strong world power and formerly the U.S.’s enemy. These are scary times indeed. In the age of nuclear power, it is evermore dangerous to be toying with the concept of war between leading global powers. It is also not entirely known if Putin is to be trusted. We must be vigilant, informed, and the philosophy of peace should dominate over the philosophy of Nationalism and warmongering. And, we must have hope.

Week 1

Amanda Rae- Staff Communications Advocate

George Reed- Staff Communications Director and Activist

As we move forward into the New Year with a vastly changed local, state, and national political landscape, it is important to review where we are and to understand what matters require the attention of the people.  We are starting this series of blogs and features to do just that and we think everyone will be able to agree there is a lot to talk about in week 1 of the new presidency.  We will hit a changing array of topics each week, so if your favorite hot spot is not yet listed, well, then just let us know!

President Trump, Congressman Rokita, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

As we review his first week in the oval office, we first notice that President Trump has recently begun cutting funding to the Affordable Care Act by way of executive orders. Congressman Rokita of the Indiana 4th District has thrown his full support behind any and all orders or bills that oppose the enforcement or stability of the Affordable Care Act. In these early stages, it is reckless at the least to consider any uprooting of the ACA in any way. No replacement plan has been put forth. Though Rokita and the GOP continue to say that everyone will be covered, yet nothing has been put forth in the way of actually doing so. “As Vice-Chair of the House Budget Committee, the repeal of ObamaCare is one of my greatest priorities. Under ObamaCare premiums have gone up while the choices that Americans have has gone down,” said Congressman Rokita in a Facebook post from this January.

Included in a separate post was a link to a page discussing a plan called the “Better Way,” which would dash the pieces of the ACA considered unreasonable, while promising that everyone need not worry about being turned away due to pre-existing conditions. However, no bill, no viable replacement, has been offered up—only glittering generalities. If any alternative solutions were offered up today it could take up to 4 years for it to become passable and enforceable. If the ACA has its wings clipped now, it may irresponsibly allow insurance providers to immediately begin turning people away for pre-existing conditions.  Some carriers are already denying pre-existing conditions on the grounds that the law is headed in their favor anyway, leaving patients to go without care or file expensive law suits. This is disastrous for a multitude of communities and individuals.

For instance, transgenderism is largely regarded as a pre-existing condition. Since the ACA was passed, many trans people have now had a chance to begin their lives and transition. The ACA also stipulates that Medicaid providers must cover transition-related medicine for trans people. Without the ACA, many trans people may lose their transition medicine, and be forced to uproot their lives. This is also terrible for anyone with cancer, diabetes, and other chronic or life-threatening illnesses as they may now be turned away from coverage. The GOP claims that one of their top priorities is protecting and enriching the lives of our veterans, yet disabled veterans may likely be turned away due to pre-existing conditions like physical disabilities, PTSD, chronic pain, etc.

The simple fact of the matter is that it is likely that Rokita and other GOP bigwigs simply do not care about the needs of those with pre-existing conditions. They are simply too expensive. Also stipulated in the ACA is that those under 26 years of age are allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance. This gives a great head-start to those of us that are young and not financially able to afford our own healthcare needs. If the ACA is clipped now, millions of the country’s young may lose health coverage. Our young minds, our collective future, may have their health subjected to the whims of fate.

College students have enough debt as it is, and heaping the debt of their own health expenses on them is irresponsible for the future of our nation. The goal of any congressman put forward to represent us should be to responsibly support the ACA indefinitely or until a better act is put forth. The ACA may be repealed, but only if other similar, and perhaps more-affordable, legislation can replace it simultaneously. Anything else would be irresponsible and a danger to the well-being of millions.

President Trump, Congressman Rokita, and the methodical dis-inclusion of millions of Americans.

One of the executive orders that Obama passed was the Executive Order 13672, which prohibited discrimination in the federal workforce and in hiring by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Across the board, GOP government officials have been trying and trying to get Trump to repeal Obama’s federal LGBT protections. When trying to find Rokita’s stance on this issue, almost no information is available. Trying to search for Rokita’s views on LGBT rights is like looking for a needle in a pool of magma. He simply does not voice his views on LGBT people or our rights. Trying to search for “LGBT” on his Facebook page will turn up no results. How disappointing to see from a congressman that is supposed to represent all the people of his district. However, research was able to turn up information on Rokita’s voting in the way of LGBT rights. In 2016, New York Representative Sean Patrick Maloney introduced an amendment, referred to as the “Maloney amendment,” which would amend H.R.4974, a military construction and veterans affairs spending bill, to not deny spending based on LGBT status of recipients or clients of recipients. “The Johnson Executive Order does not intrude on any religious liberties of which I am aware,” Rokita said in a statement. “The Maloney amendment does.” Rokita voted against the Maloney amendment, demonstrating for everyone that he regards religious freedom as the means to lawfully deny services to LGBT Americans, some of which he may even represent. Rokita also co-sponsored the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which prevents the government from taking any action on anyone acting or speaking according to their view that marriage is between one man and one woman. Effectively, it is the antithesis of a hate crime act, meaning that it almost vaguely encourages LGBT hatred in public. The act has only been introduced, and not yet voted upon.  Conscientious voters will wish to weigh in with their elected officials before it reaches a floor vote. Any congressman put forward to represent us must be willing to represent all of us, and vote in favor of the rights and protections of everyone.

A Woman’s Right to Choose.

In recent days, the president has taken moves to establish a pro-life precedent abroad, and has stated himself that he is pro-life. The only ethical stance is pro-choice, where even if one personally disagrees with the act of abortion and would never get one themselves, the individual maintains a belief that a woman’s body is hers to do with.  It is a stance where no woman should be made to be a host to a child inside of her that she does not want there. On January 25th, Congressman Rokita posted a Facebook post in support of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which will make it so that taxpayer funding will only be allocated to an abortion if carrying the fetus would be life-threatening, or if the fetus is a result of rape or incest. Rokita is vehemently pro-life. The simple fact of the matter is that men are allowed to have as many sexual relations as they like, with little to no personal bodily repercussions. A woman cannot, without fear of the penalty of being made to host an organism inside her for a grueling nine months. People make love, contraceptives routinely fail. Abortion is here to mitigate such a biological and medical inequality. The compelling visual image of 7 men in the White House making decisions governing a woman’s bodily rights is so far beyond appalling that the light from appalling would not strike it for one million years.

For someone without child-bearing organs to make the assertion that women who do not want their pregnancies are simply irresponsible is irresponsible in itself. Abortions are expensive for the individual to support all on their own, and an unwanted pregnancy is something most men will never be personally confronted with. It is something no congressman will be confronted with. I don’t feel that congressman Rokita understands what women go through, or how to represent them, and instead thinks of his own personal feelings about the importance of a fetus. A congressman put forth to represent us must be pro-choice. His own personal feelings on a woman’s right to choose for her body should not interfere with his capacity represent the people who installed him in his position, all of the people, women included.

Presidential Censorship

The president has recently called CNN and other news organizations who accurately criticize him “fake news,” and has called upon the EPA and National Parks to cease any social media activity. He demands that scientists pass studies past the White House staff before publishing—said staff having not a single scientifically qualified individual on the payroll. What we are witnessing is a calculated and intentional censorship, a blinding of the American people. The president has next set his sights on internet blockages and online censorship, which is a way to blind the American people to outside sources reporting the truth. The American people must be smart enough to realize that we are being blindfolded and that the president would like to feed us “White House news,” only news that he and his colleagues deem appropriate, his “alternative facts,” as famously stated by Kelly Anne Conway. Trump’s aim is to establish the White House as a proverbial “Ministry of Truth.” It is the duty of any elected official to actively oppose the president’s unlawful censorship aims. The American people must know the truth. If unbiased news sources, American or otherwise, are silenced at the hands of the president, we will be left with only the White House’s interpretation of facts. Accurate journalism is one of the great checks and balances that keep officials and the government at-large, responsible.

What are we to do?

We live in a terrifying time and are left to explain to our children what basic freedoms, inalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of well-being are being restricted or taken away altogether.  We must answer hard questions about the systemic lack of inclusion being demonstrated by our elected officials.  For those of us not in any minority group being disenfranchised we must point out that tomorrow it could be them. We are not without resource and there are actions we can—and must—take to secure an America where every man, woman, and child can walk freely, live safe and healthy lives, and have access to a compassionate government and a media community free to operate with integrity while delivering news that is accurate and complete.  America deserves to be led by men and women who have read, understand, and comply with the boundaries set out in our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Amendments.  We need to be watchful and call out via blog, podcast, news story, letters, and calls whenever our leaders go astray. The law and spirit of America apply to all of us now and for always.  Let us all do our part to see that this never changes.