On Funding the Arts and Sciences

Donald Trump recently announced his proposed budget, and among all the draconian cuts to many small but very beneficial programs, there are the usual cuts demanded by conservatives to arts programs (The National Endowment for the Arts, et al.), and drastic cuts to various science agencies.

I’m not going to get into the many cost-benefit arguments that get tossed around; rather, I’d like to look at another aspect.

Why do these programs get Federal funding anyway?

Let me make my case with two arguments – one literary, and one historical. The former covers the Arts, the latter the Sciences.

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The Resistance Must Be Branded

During the Second World War, Free French forces and the French Resistance adopted the Cross of Lorraine as their symbol. The famous “peace sign” was first used as a logo for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 50s. The “Black Power” movement of the 60s used the traditional raised fist (a black one, naturally) as a symbol. Women’s Liberation used the fist as well, but put it inside the circle and cross symbol that normally signified women or females. The “Gay Pride” movement chose a rainbow flag to rally around. Earlier this year, millions of women around the world wore pink knit hats to unite the hundreds of marches into one single rally.

If the many different factions that oppose Trump and Trumpism are going to ever unite, they are going to need some sort of sign or symbol to link them together.

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Fighting the Good Fight

Seems that like the woman in the back at that Obama rally, everyone is “Fired Up! Ready to Go!

Hundreds of thousands of people have been attending rallies and demonstrations and protests. Congressional phones have been clogged with calls. And it’s been working. The House gave up on its plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics thanks to public outrage. Other House plans have been put on the back burner. Presidential appointments are facing a much tougher road to confirmation than expected. Members of the House of Representatives recently had a meeting to talk about how do deal with angry constituents when they go back home to their districts.

This is all very good, but one must keep up the pressure.

A few things to keep in mind….
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Do We Give Him a Chance?

The thought has been bandied about that we should be a little lenient with our new President, especially since he has no political experience at all, and we should actually see what his policies are once he’s in office and not on the campaign trail.

New presidents usually get a “honeymoon” period of a few months while they settle in to office and the new Congress gets used to working together. They get to coast a little on the wave of optimism that swept them into office, and spend the political capital they earned on the campaign trail on pushing through the key items in their agenda.

But our new president takes office with historically awful approval ratings after an extremely close and contentious election, with clouds of scandal lurking over him.

Do we still give him a chance to at least try to be a good president?

Well…..

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Finishing Off 2016

Lately I’ve been reading occasional comments about how we should just trash all of 2016 as being a horrible, no good, very bad year. What with all the celebrities and pop culture icons dying, and all that. These complaints started appearing around the middle of November…. Interesting, to say the least…..

But anyway, we keep making this same complaint every year. That this past year was the absolute worst, and we need a global Do-Over. What a depressing hellhole we must be living in, if each succeding year is worse than all the ones before!

Look, there are a couple of things that I wish had turned out differently. A president-elect who actually showed a real interest in doing the job, for one.

But if you throw the entire year onto the trash heap, you throw out a couple of things that we really should keep.

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Our Long National Nightmare

People are still trying to come to grips with the concept of a Trump presidency. And it’s not a pretty sight. Even if he somehow manages to be sane and rational, surrounds himself with sane and rational advisers, moderates his political agenda, and doesn’t embarrass the nation any further, there are still some things that are going to happen no matter what.

He has already emboldened racists and bigots, and the GOP pretty much has free rein to do what they want in Congress.

It doesn’t look good for us.

But there are things we can do to at least mitigate the damage.
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Thank You, Baseball

Thank you for giving us a World Series between two teams so evenly matched that it went the full seven games, and had both teams score the exact same number of runs – 27 – in total.

Thanks to the weather, which was perfect for the games in November (mild temperatures instead of a seasonal chill), and even provided a rain delay at just the right time and of the right length to give everyone a chance to take a deep breath, relax, and regroup.

Thank you, Baseball, for not having a clock that allows a team with a lead to run things out and stall until time runs out. And for not having anything like a “sudden death” playoff or shootout to decide a winner after a certain amount of overtime has elapsed. Even if it takes 33 innings, you play until someone wins.

Thank you for having a century of consistent records and statistics, allowing us to debate which single play was the most dramatic ever, or which performance was the most outstanding – and have the numbers to back it up.

Thank you for a wonderful, amazing, exciting, heartbreaking, insane, joyous, and unforgettable World Series; one that helped us forget for a while the stupid vitriol of a presidential election campaign.

Except for the campaign ads during the broadcasts…..

But we’ll forgive you for that.

How Can Anyone Still Be Supporting This Guy?

It boggles the minds of some how Donald Trump still has support among the electorate. After all the things that have come out about him, from being beholden to foreign banks to the bragging about committing sexual assault, surely at this point his support should be in the single digits…. But there’s still a significant portion of America that still wants the least suitable major party candidate we’ve ever had to be President.

Why? What are they thinking? What can their reasons possibly be?

Let me try to put myself in their shoes.

I’m not talking about the Deplorables – those who agree with his racist and xenophobic demagoguery. One hopes that their numbers really are an insignificant component of his supporters. There are also the die-hard Republican loyalists. These people would vote for a dead squirrel if it was a GOP candidate. There’s nothing that can be done to convince them to vote otherwise. Nor can anyone really do something about the rabid Clinton haters. They’ve been brainwashed by the “Right Wing Conspiracy Machine” and have totally fallen for the Anti-Clinton line. Nothing you can say to promote Clinton as even just a worthy candidate will change their minds.

But that cannot account for all of Trump’s support. There’s got to be something more going on here.

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On the Electoral College – 2

Last time, for those of you not paying attention or somehow reluctant to scroll down and see the last post, I discussed the Electoral College and its historical background, and how it means we don’t elect our president by a direct popular vote.

There are two things to keep in mind when contemplating a reform of the system. First, changing it would require a Constitutional Amendment. You’re just not going to get enough small states (the ones that benefit from the current system) to go along and voluntarily give up influence.

Secondly, though, nowhere in the Constitution does it say how a state must choose its electors. So if one wants to try to reform the Electoral College, the way to do it is in the selection process in the individual states.

There are a two proposals that have been getting serious consideration.
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On the Electoral College – I

As Election Day gets closer and closer, we’re starting to see more and more references to “polling numbers”. “This candidate has a six point lead, up from four a week ago.” “A new poll narrows the gap between the candidates.” Things like that. But these polls and their numbers are grossly misleading. In addition to the inherent biases in the polls, they all overlook one simple but important thing.

We do not choose our president by direct popular vote.

We never have.

There’s this thing called the Electoral College. When you vote, you are actually choosing a set of electors who have sworn to vote for the candidate you have chosen. Not that big a deal, except there’s a distinct imbalance in the Electoral College. Smaller states have a disproportionate amount of electors, and therefore slightly more influence than they should based solely on population.

How that came about is a matter of history, and reveals something about the true nature of the United States.
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