I don’t care about abortion…

…at least politically.  I agree with the Orthodox Church that it is a grave sin and is worthy of ex-communication, and I would never try to contract one for somebody or have one myself–especially since I am a male.  Isn’t that convenient?

I say I don’t care, because honestly, I’m like other pro-lifers.  Most pro-lifers even if they say they care, really don’t.  It’s just words to them…even if they march in pro-life rallies or stand outside abortion clinics.  If they really gave a shit, I’d expect them to be gaunt from fasting or trying to burn the clinics down.  Think of our response to the World Trade Center bombing.  We started an entire war over it with a country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with it  because 18 Saudi citizens and their leader based in Afghanistan carried out an attack on us.  Just as many babies are aborted every week in the USA as were killed in the WTC bombing, but no comparable response is mounted.  Why is that?

People just don’t care.  In their hearts, people know/believe that killing the unborn is different than killing the born.  Who has had time to emotionally bond with a fetus that is killed by the morning after pill?  Nobody.  Even the scriptures give different penalties for killing a fully grown human and for killing the unborn–see Exodus 21:22.

In general, I think nothing will be done about abortion.  I don’t believe pro-life politicians really care all that much.  I think they are more interested in holding onto voting blocks.  As long as the promise of Roe vs. Wade being overturned is held out as a carrot on a stick, the stupid mule voters will keep chasing the carrot.  It’s good for votes and it is good for business–all the “ministries” dedicated to wiping out Roe vs. Wade.  I wonder how much money is raked in annually by these folks?  The fat ministers on TV certainly are not fasting themselves to overturn Roe vs. Wade.  Just look at those fat bastards.

And, the thing is, even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, it will just turn it over to the states.  It will slow down abortions, but it won’t stop someone from driving to California, NY, or Canada to have an abortion.

The thing is, and you wouldn’t know this watching Fox News or listing to right wing talk radio, but were there fewer abortions under Reagan or under Obama?  Reagan, right?  Nope, Obama.  See Guttmacher.  Less abortions under Clinton too than under Reagan.  In fact abortions have been declining for a long time.  Are Clinton or Obama responsible for lowering the abortions as compared to Reagan? Maybe, maybe not.  More funding for birth control education, and mandating insurance plans covering birth control (Obamacare) may prevent fewer unwanted pregnancies. If you have fewer unintended pregnancies, you’ll probably have fewer abortions.

When Roe vs. Wade was first overturned, there probably was a window where something permanent could have been done about abortion.  I would think a constitutional amendment might have been possible.  A constitutional amendment is a high bar, but back in the day, even Joe Biden probably would have been for it. But now, that moment seems to have passed.

I tend to vote more Democrat now because I’ve given up on abortion.  I look at the good I can accomplish with my vote, and helping feed the poor and provide them healthcare is better than a wasted vote on a pro-life candidate that won’t be successful.  I think it’s better to do the good I can do, than to waste my time on good that will never happen.  If two candidates were equal except on life, I’d vote for the pro-life candidate.  I see that even if the Republicans were actually successful and abortions were made illegal, then the Republicans, in general,  would be happy for the surviving babies to die of hunger or to not be educated or not be given healthcare.  Of course there are some Republicans with a heart, but they don’t generally get elected and they don’t have a voice on the airwaves.  To be truly pro-life is to be more than anti-abortion.  It should also mean to be pro fixing hunger, pro health, and pro education.  Those that claim to be pro-life are all too often against giving aid to people, against helping them with healthcare, and are always trying to figure ways on cutting education.

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God Bless President Trump

I didn’t vote for the guy.  It is unlikely I will change my mind for the next election, but you never can tell.

However…

He is the President of the United States.  Our liturgical prayers at my church this coming Sunday will be the same as they were last weekend.  We will pray the line (several times):

PRIEST: For the President of the United States and all civil authorities, and for the Armed Forces everywhere, let us pray to the Lord.

CHOIR: Lord, have mercy.

I hope he has a successful presidency. I hope it is marked by peace, civil rest, economic growth, and better lives for average Americans and the poor.  I will put off judgement on what others predict his policies will do and instead look at what they actually accomplish.  I do reserve the right to crack jokes, but I will likewise not be an alarmist like those who accused the former president of so much nonsense.

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Trump’s Nominees

As might be imagined, I don’t like a bunch of Trump’s nominees.  Some of them are OK.  For example, General Mattis for Secretary of Defense.  I have no problem of his appointment and of waiving his restriction.  Same with Kushner.  I don’t even know enough about him, but he is just being given an advisor job.  Sure, it skirts or even is nepotism…IDK.  If I was Trump, I’d just give him the job unpaid and there wouldn’t be the conflict.

However, some of Trump’s other picks are certainly right wing wet dreams.  I would phrase his picks as answers to this question, “How could I best destroy this branch of government?”

Betsy DeVos, Department of Education. Conservatives hate public education, or at least the Department of Education.  So who does Trump nominate? An avid foe of the department.  She and her children have never attended a public school or university.  What I am certain of is that she will try to get vouchers for private schools passed or done through executive power.  Basically, vouchers are tax breaks for rich people.  It’s mostly rich people who send their kids to school.  Yes, some are middle class, but it is people who have enough disposable income to send their children to private schools.

I confess that I sent my kids to private school.  My ex was a religious nut and was mortally afraid of public schools for no good reason.  There were plenty of public school teachers in her Sunday School class to quell her worries, but you can’t reason with crazy.  My kids’ former school is always sending me pleas for donations and to help get vouchers for the school.  I think that particular school, and others like it, should never have vouchers.  Why?  Because they discriminate against people–based on religion.  Many religious schools do not discriminate.  Catholics will accept evangelicals or muslims in their schools.  But, my kids’ evangelical school would accept neither catholics or anyone whose parent was not a fundamentalist evangelical christian.  I don’t think my tax dollars should be used to perpetuate discrimination.  The desire to discriminate against blacks was the reason the Moral Majority was founded.

Rick Perry, Department of Energy.  Here’s a guy who said he wanted to eliminate the entire department.  The main job of the DoE is to regulate, maintain, and store nuclear stockpiles.  In general, usually a guy with a PhD in Physics is the person that runs the department.  So, what are the credentials of Perry?  Educationally, he has a BS degree in Animal Science with a GPA of 2.something.  Go read his transcript.  He got a D in a class called “Meats”.  Maybe he can hire the right people to do the thinking for him.

Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency.  This one is sort of the scariest to me.  Pruitt is a tool of the oil and gas industry.  He will never decide in the favor or our health over polluting by the energy industry.  His record as Attorney General for Oklahoma is pretty clear:  he hates the agency and is bought by big oil and natural gas.

Ben Carson, Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Besides Trump saying that Carson is pathological, Carson just doesn’t seem to me to be the person capable of running anything.  He may be a brain surgeon, but I wouldn’t trust him for anything besides that.

Jeff Sessions, Attorney General.  He was denied to be a federal judge by Republicans more than 30 years ago because of alleged discrimination.  Now, he wants to be AG.  I worry.  However, I think some of the testimony is BS.  They have letters from famous civil rights figures, but not much in way of direct testimony.  Any testimony either way should be able to be cross examined.  That is the way it is supposed to work.  I think the fact that he is Republican and that there are fewer decent Republicans means that he will be confirmed in the nomination.

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What I know about Mexicans, #2

Without the Mexicans in this country, we’d starve.

I don’t live in a border state, but a border state to a border state.The border of Mexico is a 700 mile drive from my house.  Yet, if I go into nearly any restaurant in this town, I will see Mexicans (and other Hispanics) as cooks, bus boys, and waiters.  Heck, even in Pei Wei, the majority of the cooks are Mexicans.  In the Braum’s by my office, it’s all Mexicans except for the the black woman manager and one white girl.  The McDonald’s by my house and the one near my office?  Mostly Mexicans.

So, you don’t go out to eat?  Who do you think picks the fruits and vegetables in your produce section.  It’s mostly Mexicans.  You like wine?  Who picks the grapes?  Mexicans.  You like juice?  Thank Mexicans.  I could go on.

Don’t believe me?  Listen to Anthony Bourdain.

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What I know about Mexicans #1

I married a Mexican woman in February of 2016.  When I say Lourdes, my wife, is Mexican, I mean she was born in Mexico and lived in Mexico until we were married. Not like the Indiana born judge that Trump called an unfair “Mexican”. Lourdes has a 17 year old daughter, Ingrid, and a 26 year old son, Guillermo.  Ingrid immigrated with Lourdes when she immigrated and Guillermo had to remain in Mexico.

Lourdes was middle class for a Mexican, but poor for an American.  She was a paralegal for the federal court in Nuevo Laredo and only had to take occasional side jobs to pay the bills.  Lourdes raised both of her children with no child support paid by her ex-husband.  She has a house (800 sq ft, one bathroom) that we are still making the mortgage payments on.  She was able to hustle and get Ingrid  a scholarship to a private school.  Ingrid who only attended Spanish speaking schools in Mexico is getting nearly all A’s here in the US–the exception, a high B in biology, but an A in English with regular old American kids.

Guillermo is attending university in Mexico for industrial engineering and has an internship with Kia in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.  Guillermo’s rent is 3800 pesos–$190 USD.  I don’t know what the internship pays.  I don’t think it is a lot and I did not ask.  Besides the internship he also Ubers.  I can’t imagine he can make much money at it since gasoline in Mexico is over $3.50 USD per gallon.  It used to be cheaper and they are now having riots and protests in Mexico over it.

Lourdes, Ingrid, and I travelled  to Mexico after Navidad (Christmas) for Nuevo Año (New Year’s).  I asked Guillermo how much employers pay at somewhere like McDonald’s in Mexico.  He said he has friends in Mexico who work there, and for 48 hours a week, they bring home something like 800-900 pesos…or $40-$45 USD.  If rent is 3800 peso, then a job at McDonald’s is not going to cut it.  It takes both people working generally and some with two jobs and not just one.  The other thing is that food is cheaper in Mexico, but not that cheap.  It’s half price on some things, maybe a little cheaper on local produce, but meat is not a great deal.  If you try to buy McDonald’s, it is going to be 60% of the US price–but the wages for the worker is a net of less than $1 per hour.

When I travel to Mexico, I see how blessed my life in the US is.

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Economic Progress Under Obama, #4

This is strictly anecdotal…

I have been an engineer for 30 years, and I have been writing software professionally for 20+ years.  When Bill Clinton was president, especially in his second term, I had headhunters bothering me like crazy.  They were constantly asking me if I wanted a new job.  Under Bush, it was rather anemic.  I did have one decent inquiry from Microsoft around 2006 or so, but other than that, there wasn’t much action.  I would say that it continued that way under Obama for the first 6 years of his term with only occasional inquiries.  Over the past two years it has picked up gradually and increasingly.  In the last 6 months, it has picked up quite a bit.  In the last two months, I have to shake them off with a stick.  Some of it may  be that I updated my Monster profile, IDK.  I just know that the economy is humming much better now than it did under the end of the Bush years.

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Economic Progress Under Obama, #3

Well, this isn’t really specifically about Obama.  It is about whether the economy does better under Democratic presidents rather than Republican presidents.  The answer is that the economy does do better under Democratic leadership rather than Republican leadership.  Why?  I don’t know.  I think there are many factors and sometimes the presidents get caught by a bad situation or get helped by a good one.  However, since they are in the office, they get the credit or blame.

Even Donald Trump said so on camera!!! (He does say he doesn’t know why.)

But if you don’t believe Trump, you can look at people who have collated the data:

From Forbes.com, Trump is right about one thing, the economy does better under Democrats.

From USNews.com, Which Presidents Have Been Best for the Economy?

From PoliticsThatWork.com, Which Party is Better for the Economy?

For some caveats or balance:

From Princeton University, Presidents and the US Economy: An Econometric Exploration

From Politifact, Does the economy always do better under Democratic presidents?

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Economic Progress Under Obama #2

This is the second in the series.  I made a comment to a friend that Obama has left the economy in better shape than Bush.  He was incredulous and said, “you’re smarter than that”–which is a roundabout way of saying I was being stupid.

In general, I don’t think I’m stupid.  I have reasons for what I think and they’re not just because Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity told me what to think.  In fact, for years I used to listen to those two, and then I had an online friend challenge me.  He used to say crazy shit like “the economy does better under Democratic presidents” and other things.  I challenged him on it, and he said to look it up.  Well, I did, and damn if he wasn’t right.

Next, let’s talk about jobs under Obama.  Everyone knows that Bush created a lot more jobs than Obama, right? How many times have the Republicans said it?  However, there is data on the subject at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  If you want to search for the particular data I acquired, search for “private sector jobs’.  It will give you the last 10 years.  Change the beginning search date from 2006 to 2001.  My search is for 2001 – 2016 which contains the Bush and Obama years.  The graph looks like this:

Private Sector Jobs from 2001 – 2016

The raw data I downloaded from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is here.

If you look at the raw data in January 2001 to January 2009, the number of people employed goes from 111,870,000 to 111,474,000, or a net loss of 396,000 jobs during Bush’s time in Office.  If you look at the data for Obama, the number of employed goes from 111,474,000 to 122,883,000 (estimated) in November 2016.  (These numbers are always preliminary until the final numbers come in.) For Obama’s two terms, the economy gained more than 11,000,000 jobs.  So, Bush lost approximately 400K jobs and Obama gained 11M jobs.  In the math I was taught, Obama’s numbers are way better than Bush’s numbers.  In fact, it isn’t even close.  If I ask someone, would you rather loose $400,000 or gain $11,000,000, most would choose the gain.

The final piece to look at in the graphs is the slope of the curve.  In 2009, the slope of the curve is negative which is to say the economy is losing jobs as Bush is handing the job off to Obama.  As we approach 2017, the slope is positive which is to say the economy is gaining jobs as Obama is handing the economy off to Trump.

So, when comparing jobs, it is a double win for Obama.  The economy gained jobs under Obama’s care AND the number of jobs is increasing rather than decreasing as he hands off the job to his successor.

 

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Martyred Bishop Romero and the Religious Right

In March 1980, Roman Catholic bishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero was serving mass and during the service he was assassinated. In 1997, John Paul II declared Romero a Servant of God. He was declared a martyr by Pope Francis in 2015 and was later beatified.

The assassination of bishop Romero was later attributed to Roberto D’Aubuison. D’Aubuisson was an extreme right wing politician.  He had the backing of people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.  On CBN, Robertson praised D’Aubuisson and the mass murderers of nearby Guatemala.

You can google D’Aubuisson together with Falwell and Robertson and get some interesting hits.

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Economic Progress Under Obama #1

I made an assertion to a friend that Obama has left Trump in better shape than Bush left to Obama, and my friend that I’ve known since college, and whom I had asked to be my best man in 1989, decided to unfollow me on Twitter.  I do not think it is controversial at all to say that Obama is leaving Trump in better shape than Bush left Obama.  I think it is simple numbers.

Economics is half math and half philosophy.  The philosophy part is where an economist tries to predict or explain.  The math part is purely measurements.  The economic progress or lack thereof under Obama should be able to be quantified–items like the stock market performance, employment, GDP, etc.  I am an engineer and don’t know hardly a damn thing about economics, but I know a few things.

For measuring the success of the stock market, people generally use the S&P 500 or the DJIA.  I did a simple google search for and found a page tracking the S&P 500.  The source of this data is from: http://www.cheatsheet.com/stocks/presidential-stock-market-scorecards-reagan-to-obama.html/?a=viewall

I will try to summarize from Reagan to Obama, the S&P 500 index performance under each (I’m eyeballing the graphs, the numbers are pretty close):

President          Start    End         Growth
Reagan              370      550          49%
Bush I                550     710           29%
Clinton              710      1800        154%
Bush II              1800   980          -46%
Obama               980    2259        131%  (graph ends in 2013, using actual value from 9 Dec 2016)

So, under Bush II, the S&P decreased by 46%, and under Obama the S&P increased by 131%.  Which is better a decrease of 46% or an increase of 131%?  I would say the latter.  I know my 401k is up about 170% or close to it. (I am not a savvy investor, I have made contributions to my 401k that has caused some of the growth.)

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