Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny

Sometimes the news gets so bizarre that it’s hard distinguish fact from fiction.  Take, for example, the weird case of Donald Trump and his one-issue campaign for the presidency of the USA.

Trump is a unabashed megalomaniac who craves the spotlight and being the center of attention.  He is incredibly rich, being worth an estimated US$2.7 billion.  Obviously, money speaks and Trump is a master at using his money to buy the venues that give him the most tightly controlled public exposure, including television shows and outrageously extravagant (and public) lifestyle choices.  Against this backdrop,  Trump has announced that he is considering a run for the republican nomination for president of the USA.

Among the present field of GOP contenders, Trump has recently been the most vocal and intensely press-covered GOP candidate (or potential candidate).  That’s not surprising, since Trump is all about being the center of attention, and using whatever venue he needs buy to “strut his stuff”, as it were.  That’s what megalomaniacs do, don’cha know.

Thus, it is understandable what Trump motivations really were (and are) regarding any run for political office.  Since announcing that he’s “interested” in a “possible run” for president, he’s done exactly what he needs to do to get into the limelight and stay there as long as he can.  He found the perfect issue with which to accomplish that:  the totally bogus, already-discredited, favorite conspiracy theory of the ultra-right lunatic fringe:  the “birther” issue, i.e., president Obama really not a natural-born American citizen.

The US constitution requires that all candidates for US president be natural-born citizens, as opposed to naturalized citizens or foreigners.  One thing (of many)  that the “birthers” neglect to consider is all of the case law that has been developed over the past 220 + years.  But then, they also ignore all Supreme Court case law which has interpreted and defined the US constitution over the same period of time.

These “shit-house” lawyers claim that president Obama was not born in Hawaii, but in Kenya or Indonesia.  As a result, he can’t be a natural born American.  That’s interesting, because based upon that criteria, John McCain, their GOP darling in the 2008 presidential election, would also have to be considered not a natural born American….because he was born in Panama!

But again, these lazy fringe lunatics don’t know enough and/or are too lazy and/or stupid to thoroughly research the issue.  The law is clear: if either or both of your parents are Americans, then their child, though born overseas, is still a natural-born American citizen.

Trump, with his US$2.7 billion fortune, had to know this, since he probably has the best research team on the planet working for him.  Yet, he STILL pushed the issue.  And while he did, he stayed in the limelight.

Amusingly, when Trump first threw his “birther” shit-grenade out into the press to for them to throw themselves on, he said he was releasing his own birth certificate, claiming that he had nothing to hide.  Then he released his “certificate of live birth” from New Jersey, which looked more like a fabrication than a real document.  In the meantime, he claimed that Obama’s “certificate of live birth” from Hawaii was not an official birth certificate, even though it had already been thoroughly researched and vetted by factcheck.org, which is a project of the non-partisan Annenburg Public Policy Center back in 2008!  It found that Obama was in fact born in Hawaii.  The research is documented here.

Still, Trump and his army of uninformed, stupid, lazy, fantasy-worshiping, conspiracy-loving, Obama-hating lunatic-fringe crazies, including Sarah Palin and her part-time employer Fox News continued full-speed ahead, claiming that Obama was hiding something.

It seems that it never occurred to any of them that the FBI and the US Secret Service vet every presidential candidate, as well as others running for national public office and/or cabinet positions.  But slowly, more and more republican political candidates smelled potential disaster with this issue, and began to distance themselves from it.  Even Michelle Bachmann, a leading Tea-party-right-wing history revisionist, steered clear of the issue.  That’s really saying something!

Finally, today president Obama released to the press his full-form, unredacted certificate of live birth, complete with registration numbers and all information visible.  As he did, he stated that he hoped people would now concentrate on the real issues…like the economy, jobs, debt and deficit-reduction, etc…..you know…stuff that Trump never discussed because he was just too busy with the birther issue.

Significantly, after the release Trump issued a statement claiming that it was he who forced the president to finally release the certificate, which, incidentally was already previously released in 2008!

The ultra-right lunatic fringe has to be really upset with these developments.  They lost one of their favorite conspiracy theories.

But then, they still have the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny..and everyone KNOWS that something sinful and/or unsavory is going on between those two.  🙂

 

 

Air Traffic Controllers: EXPOSED AS HUMANS!!!!!!!!

So all of a sudden, no less than five air traffic controllers (one of which was a supervisor) were caught sleeping on the midnight (“mid”) shift within the past two weeks.  Additionally, one was caught watching a portable DVD player while his supervisor looked on.

Thus, all air traffic controllers who work for the US government (a very small number work for private companies) are now dog meat in the eyes of some congressmen and some of the public.  As if this was something brand new, like aliens from the planet Zork landing on the White House lawn.

However, this writer , having been an air traffic controller for 34 years with experience in every type of air traffic facility (regional control center (“center”), Terminal Radar Approach Control “TRACON”, and control tower (“tower”), knows that this is nothing that hasn’t been going on since before he began his career in 1970.

To say that one is slightly amused by the attention these incidents are now getting in an understatement.  To say that these incidents are big now only because the press has finally found out about them is accurate.  Got the flick?

For many, many years every controller, as well as the entire air traffic organization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has known about the issue of fatigue.  Unfortunately, the FAA always considered fatigue to be a self-induced problem.  FAA management historically refused to accept scientific evidence to the contrary, based solely upon their archaic management philosophy (“we don’t pay employees to sleep!”- FAA Administrator Randy Babbit) .

Yet, the FAA recently approved a program for pilots to take “fatigue-mitigating” naps on long intercontinental flights.  Flight attendants will be allowed to do the same. The FAA didn’t agree to this until several fatigue-related airline accidents/incidents hit the press.  That’s the FAA’s modus operandi, after all:  Don’t pro-act;  simply react, and then only when forced.  If you doubt that, ask the National Transportation Safety Board, which has made hundreds of safety recommendations over the years that FAA has yet to implement.

Additionally, the FAA isn’t paying the pilots;  the airlines are.

Similarly, for many years the FAA has forced controllers to work boring “mids” without anyone else around to relieve them or talk to them, or provide that extra “margin of safety”.  Those one-person mids were mandated for one reason:  to save money.  Yet, the stated primary mission of the FAA is not supposed to be about “profit”, but about safety.  So for the FAA to now scream about the bad press it’s getting is disingenuous, at best.

On the other hand, the union representing most civilian air traffic controllers, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), has for many, many years advocated that no less less two people should be assigned to every mid shift.  The reason is safety, and the needs are clear.

First, most controllers work mids at the end of their workweek, when they were already fatigued from their rotating shift schedule and the intensity of the job itself.  Working a mid is contrary to the human’s normal biological wake-sleep rotation, plus it’s often in towers with little or no overnight air traffic. The lone controller is expected to remain fresh and alert, despite being both sleep-deprived and sensory-deprived, with at the very best perhaps a couple of hours of sleep at home.  That’s insufficient for anyone to remain alert in an exceeding boring environment for 8 hours.

Additionally, that are times when a lone controller may need to visit the bathroom (perhaps for an extended period of time).  Although the FAA has developed certain procedures for this, the actual event can render the tower effectively inoperative, negating the whole reason for a controller to be there in the first place.  Also, if a controller gets seriously sick on the mid, there is no one to relieve him/her, or even help in the event of unconsciousness.

The FAA recently stated to the press that if a controller felt unable to perform his/her duties due to fatigue, the controller should report that to his/her supervisor.  Yet, in 2006 during a contract dispute, the FAA gave orders to its supervisors to deny sick leave or any other accommodation for tired controllers, stating “controllers don’t like to work when they’re tired!” in their supervisory briefing.

It is therefore refreshing that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, under whom the FAA is subordinate, has finally acknowledged the biological facts regarding fatigue and has agreed to work with NATCA to mitigate this fatigue factor within the controller workforce, as has been done for pilots.  LaHood ordered 26 facilities to increase their overnight staffing from one to two people immediately.  He and NATCA president Paul Rinaldi are touring facilities across the US talking with controllers about the issue while emphasizing fatigue mitigation as well as professionalism.

As someone who knows the truth, it is refreshing to see events unfolding as they are.  And by the way…the controller watching the DVD while his supervisor looked on was probably mitigating his fatigue as well.  Do you know why the supervisor allowed it?

Answer:  Because the supervisor understood the need for fatigue mitigation, even if the FAA didn’t.

 

Reducing US Debt: Cut Spending, Raise Taxes, Or BOTH?

A Canadian recently commented on a national TV show that “Americans are really something:  They’re the richest country in the world.  Yet, they don’t want to pay taxes, they don’t want to pay for health care, they don’t want to regulate the corporate greed that makes the very rich richer and the middle class poorer, they don’t want to invest in their future, and then they wonder why their world stature keeps going down while their national debt keeps going up.”

That probably represents a world view that is universally changing for the USA’s worst, especially since it is America that has helped so many other countries get back on their feet over the past century.  But now America is in serious financial trouble, and necessary economic adjustments are taking a back seat to political agendas, at the expense of America’s future.

At one end is the extreme right-wing that believes in supporting corporate America and reducing taxes on them and richest people, as well as reducing all non-defense spending (regardless of who gets hurt) is the solution to everything.  At the other end is the extreme left wing that believes that only the solution to everything is to increase taxes on the very rich.

So who’s right?

Answer:  Both…and neither!  That reality is that while spending must be cut, it must be done in a way that does not damage America or its future.  We cannot simply blow off spending on highway infrastructure, for instance, without damaging the country’s future ability to move goods and services nationwide when the roads become impassible and the bridges collapse.  And we can’t blow off programs like social security, Medicare or Medicaid without forcing multitudes of seniors to stand in bread lines and clog hospital emergency rooms.   Finally, we can’t put off paying for something now,  without realizing that we’re going to have to pay MUCH more later to fix the same problem….while concurrently refusing to increase incoming revenue (a.k.a., taxes).  Put simply, you cannot ONLY reduce spending and expect to really reduce the debt.

On the other hand, you can’t keep supporting inefficient or senseless programs, or programs with no constant review/evaluation of their effectiveness, paying for this by increasing taxes,  even if it is only on the very rich and the large corporations.  Put simply, you cannot ONLY increase taxes and expect to really reduce the debt.

You have to do both, and in a manner that is fair and balanced for all (NO relationship or similarity to a certain right-wing so-called news network that is anything but Fair and Balanced.  🙂  )

To that end US president Obama gave a speech yesterday afternoon proposing both spending cuts and increased taxes on people making more than  US$ 200,000 a year.  Specifically, he proposed that the GW Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 benefiting the wealthiest 2% of Americans be allowed to expire in December 2012, without any additional “extension”.  He also proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, although they are a far cry from the cuts proposed by congressman Paul Ryan, republican from Wisconsin, two weeks ago and endorsed by the republican leadership in congress, that would essentially destroy these 40+ -year-old programs.

What distinguishes Obama’s plan from Ryan’s more than anything is that Obama proposed spending cuts that affect everyone, PLUS tax increases for the very rich.  Ryan proposed spending cuts that dramatically hurt senior citizens and the poor, PLUS NO tax increases, PLUS more tax reductions for the very rich.

Barring some kind of (unlikely) political breakthrough by the “Gang of 6” in the US senate, it is clear that the 2012 election is going to be all about deficit and debt reduction.  And as a result, American voters had better pay attention..  As one person recently stated, “So what if we don’t increase the debt ceiling?  So what if we default on our national loans?”, which demonstrates an unfathomable ignorance of the issues that could actually destroy the American standard of living and way of life.

Practically the only saving grace leading up to the 2012 elections is that Donald Trump (the multi-billionaire considering a run for the presidency because “I like to win!”),  Sarah Palin (who said that she knew about foreign affairs because “‘…you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”), and Michelle Bachmann (who said that the founding fathers ended slavery) might be running for president.  And by the way…if you want the truth about Trump’s signature (and only) issue (birther conspiracy), check reality HERE.

So…while these three clowns have the time of their lives entertaining us…hopefully we’ll elect (re-elect, actually) a president and a congress that will actually work toward fixing our fiscal mess.

Hope springs eternal, don’cha y’know…   🙂

US Government: Closed During Remodeling, by Order of the Tea Party….?

As of Wednesday 6 April 2011, the deeply divided US congress has yet agree to a government-wide budget for fiscal year 2011, which began on 1 October 2010.  As a result, US government has been running on a series of congressionally-passed stop-gap “continuing resolutions” which allow the various government agencies to operate at last year’s financial levels.  This was done to give congress the time they thought they needed to finalize the 2011 national budget.

But they still failed to agree on a final 2011 budget. And if they can’t find a way to compromise, the US government will shut down all non-critical, non-safety-intensive operations after 11:59pm Friday night, 8 April 2011.

This budget fight is complicated by two undeniable facts:  First, for the past 10 years, the budget has had an increasing deficit, i.e., more money going out than coming in.  Second,  the republicans, back by Tea-Party supporters, regained control of the House of Representatives.

The freshmen republicans are inexperienced at government shut-downs, since the last one occurred in 1995-1996, courtesy of then-speaker of the house republican Newt Gingrich, who fancies himself being elected president of the USA in 2012.  Additionally, many of the these newbies are Tea Party members, or supporters who owe the Tea Party for helping to get them to elected.

Interestingly, there is a large difference in operational philosophy between mainstream GOP republicans and these ultra-right tea-baggers.  Mainstream GOPers understand that compromise with the other party (democrats) is crucial to arriving at an compromise agreement.  They also understand that a government shutdown, which will occur if there is not compromise on the fiscal 2011 budget, isn’t in their best political interests, based upon past history.

Tea-baggers, on the other hand, simply don’t care if the government shuts down because of no budget compromise/agreement.  They believe the public will blame the democrats for not caving in to the tea-baggers’ demands to rein in government spending, albeit by demanding unreasonable cuts in discretionary spending for items such as medical research, educational programs such as Project Head Start and Pell grants, and CHIP, the child health insurance program.  Oh, and remember that they want to eliminate all funding for Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio (NPR).

In all, these teabaggers are insisting upon US$100 billion in “discretionary spending” budget cuts for the six months left in the 2011 fiscal year, which ends 30 September 2011, equating to US$200 billion per year in real time.  But with a budget deficit this year alone of over US$1.6 TRILLION, the 100 billion dollars of cuts they propose would only reduce this year’s deficit from US$1.6 trillion to $1.5 trillion.  It isn’t even a drop in the deficit bucket.

The ugly fact is that bringing both this year’s US$ 1.6 trillion budget deficit (and getting worse), plus ultimately bringing the US$14 trillion national debt down to levels that don’t bankrupt the USA, is going to require two very undesirable actions, each of which is uglier to one political side than to the other.  The teabaggers would LOVE to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, federal pensions, health care, and every other federal entitlement program, if they thought they could get away with it.  And they would do it smiling, while concurrently providing yearly tax cuts to large corporations and the very wealthiest of Americans.

On the other hand, the left would fight to the death against any substantial cuts in the aforementioned entitlement programs, except that they would happily roll all medical programs into one universal, single-payer national health care program for the sake of efficiency. AND, they would increase taxes on the big corporations and the very wealthy who, frankly, are no longer paying their fair share of the financial costs of effective government.  They would also increase taxes to pay for the fact that people are living longer and thus are accessing their entitlements longer, which increases the financial costs.  These increased costs clearly need to be paid.

The fact that the right wing has insisted upon huge tax breaks for the rich while concurrently insisting upon cuts to programs that benefit children and the working poor is nothing short of selfish and immoral.  But these “me, me, me and the hell with you” teabaggers seem to be oblivious to that.  They believe that everyone in the USA is born with same gifts, capabilities, skills, talent, intelligence, financial support and opportunities as everyone else in the USA.   Therefore, if these folks don’t achieve millionaire status, it’s their own fault for being lazy.

But, as stated earlier, teabaggers are gambling against the fallout from the voters of past government shutdowns.  And if they continue to stand firm like Don Quixote against the windmills, they might find out what Ol’ Newt found out in 1996…the American people may not be that bright, but they know when their government checks are late.

Plus!  They’ll know who caused it, and whom to un-elect in 2012.