U.S. Political & Geopolitical Thoughts

Topical / Chronological Index:

Jul 31, 2020: Cultural Change In America Will Take Time

Jul 31, 2020: The Fed Chair Recognizes Income Inequality As A Serious Economic Problem And A Long-Standing Issue In The U.S. Economy

Jul 20, 2020: HUD proposal to change homeless shelter access approval based on gender physical features (Adams apples)!

Jul 1, 2020: Retired General Stanley McChrystal, a person of apparent character and integrity, and leadership skills; worthy of consideration for service in future U.S. administrations.

Latest Update: Jul 31, 2020

Cultural Change In America Will Take Time

I am currently half-way through a book titled “Earning The Rockies — How Geography Shapes America’s Role In The World”, 2017, by Robert D. Kaplan; it is a nostalgic history-laced account of Kaplan’s scenic drive across America in 2015.  In his book he touches on the geography, history, and multiple cultural identities of America.   If you like history and geography, like I do, you will enjoy the book; otherwise it is a bit of a sleeper. 

Last night I was reading a bit (pg. 90) that Kaplan wrote on the death of a young woman, Narcissa Whitman, and her husband, early settlers in Walla Walla, Washington in 1847; murdered at the hands of enraged Native Americans; apparently because the white settlers brought with them the measles, which consequently wiped out a large portion of the local native populous.  

Kaplan went on to make the point that, many others have also made, history is constantly rewritten or retold in different lights or perspectives, and that sometimes in the rewrite or retelling things of value get lost!  In effect…Narcissa Whitman may have made a significant contribution to American history, being the first “white woman” to cross the American frontier; but, her story may have been lost or muted in the much larger and obviously more important historical narrative of the near extermination of the Native American population, orchestrated by the U.S. government via the U.S. Army.

Just to make it clear I think America’s racist, murderous history towards Native Americans and enslaved Africans will both be lasting ugly stains on our nation’s soul.

That being said, the part of the book’s text that stirred me to write this brief Op-Ed is what Kaplan stated next:

“It is true that historical research is necessary to defeat jingoistic nationalism. The more history we know, the more complex the story of our past becomes and the more realistic we can be about it.  But without some kind of usable past, there is no possibility of affecting geopolitics for the good.  How do we know where to go if we can’t draw upon some inspiration from the past?”

Those last two sentences got me thinking.  How do we get people to change their point of view if changing that point of view is essentially asking them to give up their foundational beliefs – their likely false narratives? People cling to things (nationalism, racism, sexism, hatred, religion, politics, and history) to help themselves navigate their way on life’s continuously bumpy road.

The current Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is a righteous and necessary movement for the cultural evolution of American society; but keep in mind … real change takes time!  It will take decades, maybe centuries for America to rid itself of its current false narratives.  As a nation, we have a long and difficult journey ahead of us!

A few words of advice to those on the frontlines of this cultural evolution:  Do not become the hatred, the evil, that you seek to change!  

The Fed Chair Recognizes Income Inequality As A Serious Economic Problem And A Long-Standing Issue In The U.S. Economy

He states (I’m paraphrasing here) that the issue can’t be resolved with monetary policy alone; the solutions to stem the growing wealth gap in America rest with Congress and their fiscal policy authority.  So, Congress…. What policies have you, our elected representatives, submitted, enacted, or legislated to address and fix this growing wage gap problem that has been increasing for some “four decades”?

July 29, 2020 Chair Powell’s Press Conference Transcript PRELIMINARY Pages 8, 9 & 10 of 28 — weblink below.

David Gura, NBC:  Mr. Chairman, “as a follow-up (question), I wonder what you’ve learned about the degree to which this (pandemic) has led to a widening of the wealth gap in this country, the degree to which maybe people are experiencing two different kinds of pandemics here. Some are getting through this based on what they’ve saved and the jobs that they have. Others are really struggling to get by and I wonder what role — what additional role the Fed could have in sort of bridging that yawning gap.”

Chairman Powell:  “In terms of inequality really, so I think it’s fair to say that the burdens of the pandemic have fallen heavily — they’ve fallen on everyone, but they’ve fallen very heavily on people who work in the service industries in relatively low-paying jobs. So there was a figure that came out of some of our research that was that if you make $40,000 a year or less, then 40 percent — you had a 40 percent chance of losing your job in April and May. So it’s falling very heavily on people who have the least financial wherewithal to, you know, to bear that. And that happens to be heavily skewed to minorities and to women. So that’s just what the pandemic is doing.”

“You know, in terms of what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do is create an environment in the financial markets and in the economy where those people have the best chance they can have to go back to work to their old job or to a new job. That’s really what we’re doing. Everything we do is directed at that. And you know, I would say one last thing on inequality. That is inequality as an issue has been a growing issue in our country and in our economy for four decades. And you see it — it has many faces. You see it in the relative flattening out of incomes for people in lower- and middle-income compared to those at the top. You see it in low mobility where people — where the chances of moving up from the bottom to the middle or the top have declined and are lower than they are in other comparable wealthy countries.”

So it’s a serious economic problem for the United States, but it’s got underlying causes that are not related to monetary policy or to our response to the pandemic. Again, four decades of evidence suggests it’s about globalization, it’s about the flattening out of educational attainment in the United States compared to our other competitor countries. It’s about technology advancing too. If you’re on the wrong side of those forces, it’s been — your income has stagnated. So it’s a critical, critical problem for our society but one that really falls mainly to fiscal (congressional) policy and other policies. Our (The Federal Reserve’s) part of it is to push as hard as we can on our employment mandate while keeping price stability. We saw what happened to people at the lower end of the income spectrum late in the last expansion. It was the best labor market in 50 years they told us. We saw that the biggest wage increases were going to people on the bottom end of the wage spectrum for the last couple of years of that ten-year, eight-month expansion. So a tight labor market is probably the best thing that the Fed can foster to go after that problem which is a serious one.”

https://www.federalreserve.gov/mediacenter/files/FOMCpresconf20200729.pdf

Update: Jul 20, 2020:

Hi, today’s blog update is about a recent Housing Urban Development (HUD) law modification proposal. My blog opinions are normally tempered; I try to stay apolitical so that more people can benefit from the content of the blog without having to choose a side.  But today I read the below referenced Business Insider article, and it just ticked me off!  In my opinion, President Trump does not personally care about a person’s gender identity, albeit heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, etc.… and that indifference makes his and his administration’s statements and actions even more heinous because his/their actions are designed solely to foment hate in the populous. Trump’s making a political calculation…and he apparently doesn’t care who or how many people  his actions hurt, as long as he benefits politically from the ensuing chaos and carnage! His moral code starts and ends with — What is in it for me…Can I use it to my benefit? 

My take:  We are all human beings, regardless of race, color, political affiliation, nationality, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity…and we are all worthy of love, consideration, and respect…until our actions, behavior and communications prove otherwise!

The Trump administration wants homeless shelters to use physical characteristics like the ‘presence of an Adam’s apple’ to identify and refuse shelter to transgender women”, by Rhea Mahbubani, Business Insider, Published Jul 20, 2020

“A proposal from the Department of Housing and Urban Development would allow federally funded homeless shelters to take a person’s “physical characteristics” into account when deciding if they should be housed among men or women.”

“HUD is working to reverse the Obama-era Equal Access Rule that provides housing to transgender people based on the gender identity with which they identify.”

“The rule’s text, first reported by Vox, says shelter staff can look for “factors such as height, the presence (but not the absence) of facial hair, the presence of an Adam’s apple.””

“If a person’s “biological sex” is not apparent based on observation, staff at women’s-only shelters are allowed to ask for proof.”

“A proposed rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) tells homeless shelters to use people’s physical attributes — rather than their self-identified gender — to decide whether the homeless should be housed among men or women.”

Vox (Vox.com) obtained a copy of the rule’s text, which is part of HUD’s effort to roll back the Obama-era Equal Access Rule that ensures transgender people are served based on their gender identities.“

https://www.vox.com/identities/2020/7/17/21328708/proposed-anti-trans-rule-homeless-shelters-judge-women

“Now, the rule allows workers at federally funded homeless shelters to rely on “factors such as height, the presence (but not the absence) of facial hair, the presence of an Adam’s apple, and other physical characteristics which, when considered together, are indicative of a person’s biological sex.””

“Staff members at women’s shelters may determine whether to admit someone based on visual appearance, according to Vox. If the woman’s gender is unclear based on her appearance, shelter workers are permitted to seek proof of her sex before granting her housing. People who are turned away may be forced to go to a men’s shelter, according to Vox.”

“”Evidence requested must not be unduly intrusive of privacy, such as private physical anatomical evidence. Evidence requested could include government identification, but lack of government identification alone cannot be the sole basis for denying admittance on the basis of sex,” the rule continues, per Vox.”

“Transgender people already face enormous barriers when trying to find a home. The National Center for Transgender Equality found that one in five trans people have faced discrimination when seeking housing, more than one in 10 have faced evictions, and one in three have been homeless.”

“”Discrimination and criminalization have left countless transgender people, particularly transgender people of color, exposed to violence and abuse, all while family rejection can leave transgender youth with nowhere to turn,” Mara Keisling, the center’s executive director, said in a statement.”

“HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson is a former neurosurgeon who has been hostile to transgender people during his 2016 presidential bid. In 2019, he claimed at an event that the agency “no longer seemed to know the difference between men and women,” while describing trans women as “big, hairy men” who would try to “infiltrate” women’s homeless shelters, staffers told the Washington Post.”

“”Secretary Carson is contradicting the very mission of his department by trying to make shelters less safe for those who need them and further endangering the lives of marginalized people,” Keisling said.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson ridiculed transgender women as ‘big, hairy men’ trying to infiltrate women’s shelters, leaving staffers horrified

“HUD Updates Equal Access Rule, Returns Decision Making to Local Shelter Providers: Rule upholds Department’s commitment to fair treatment of all individuals while allowing shelter providers to establish an admissions policy that best serves their unique communities”, HUD.GOV

“WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson today announced a proposed modification to the 2016 portion of the Equal Access rule. The Equal Access rule requires all HUD funded housing services to be provided without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The new rule allows shelter providers that lawfully operate as single-sex or sex-segregated facilities to voluntarily establish a policy that will govern admissions determinations for situations when an individual’s gender identity does not match their biological sex. Each shelter’s policy is required to be consistent with state and local law, must not discriminate based on sexual orientation or transgender status, and may incorporate practical considerations of shelter providers that often operate in difficult conditions. The proposed rule modifications also better accommodate religious beliefs of shelter providers. For example, such policies could be based on biological sex, sex as identified on official government identification, or the current rule’s mandate of self-identified gender identity.” 

Does anyone else see the contradiction between the Equal Access Rule and the proposed rule modification?

https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/HUD_No_20_099#:~:text=The%20Equal%20Access%20rule%20requires,sexual%20orientation%20or%20gender%20identity.&text=HUD%20also%20wants%20to%20encourage%20their%20participation%20in%20HUD%20programs.ams.

First Post: Jul 1, 2020

Hi, Starting a new branch of this blog to address political and geopolitical issues. I’ll try to keep my own political leanings to a minimum in these posts. I’ll add additional posts (updates) on an ad hoc basis.

We, The U.S., need to find a way to rise above the current political divisiveness, between Democrats and Republicans, that grips our country. I am the youngest of four adult siblings: two democrats and two republicans. We manage to make our family bonds work in spite of our differing political affiliations and beliefs; I hope our country and our government can do the same!

Just watched a brief interview of retired General Stanley McChrystal on Bloomberg’s “Balance Of Power” show. I was really impressed with how intelligently and eloquently he expressed himself on topics such as leadership and America’s history and role in Afghanistan, and the U.S.’ relationship with Russia. I hope he’ll consider, and be considered for, a significant role in future U.S. administrations; we need more leaders with moral character. Gen. McChrystal admitted in the interview that he’d made mistakes in his past (see the BBC article referenced (#11) in the below Wikipedia weblink) and that he’s learned from his mistakes. I like the fact he’s human; we’ve all made mistakes in our pasts…if you say you haven’t… then you weren’t trying hard enough!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_A._McChrystal