Archive for the ‘News and politics’ Category

As I said in my previous post, I was on jury duty for a couple of days this month. They said the trial would take three days, but it actually only took two. There weren’t a lot of witnesses; the prosecution had 4 while the defense only had 1, the defendant.

I won’t get into the case here because it wasn’t a pleasant case. It wasn’t something trivial like a DUI or break-and-enter, but instead a sexual assault case.

Instead, I’m going to skip ahead to the jury deliberations.

We ended up coming to a verdict of guilty, and you might think I’d feel a sense of civic pride for “putting the bad guy away”. Indeed, a lot of people were joking to me “GUILTY! GUILTY!” during the trial, and afterwards when I told them what the case was about, they all reeled back in discomfort. But I didn’t feel good at all, I had a mixture of depression, sadness, relief, and guilt.


First, when I entered the jury room, I was reasonably convinced of the defendant’s guilt. I thought that the victim had a story that was believable; and the defendant did not, and made up his counter story, and lied under oath.

But there were other jurors who were less convinced and gave more weight to the defendant and the principle of innocent until proven guilty. I didn’t like how I was less willing to believe in the defendant’s innocence, and gave much less plausibility to the defendant’s story than others.

Our system of justice is built on the foundation of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I didn’t want to be a guy who brought biases into court (“If he’s here he must be guilty”) because if the situations were reversed and I really was innocent, I’d want the jury to understand that same principle and grant me the same standard of justice.

I was worried that I wouldn’t grant this defendant that same standard that I’d want others to grant me.

After all, some jurors were hesitant at first. Why weren’t they right and me wrong? I didn’t like that I could be wrong but was unable to see it.


Second, some jurors who were not hesitant admitted they were convinced by a piece of video evidence that I also found convincing.

But I didn’t need the video evidence (or maybe I did… but if I didn’t, it goes back to my first point of not being willing to grant the presumption of innocence).

But I thought to myself “We are convicting on the basis of this video. What about all of the other sexual assault cases that don’t have video evidence? All of the ‘he said, she said’ cases?”

If you’ve ever wondered how sexual assault cases have such a low conviction rate, it’s because the prosecutor can’t prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You need more than just “he said, she said”. Otherwise, you have to presume that the defendant is innocent.

And I found that depressing.

It’s only luck that video evidence was in this trial, and that the defendant did something extraordinarily incriminating in the video that undercut his entire argument.

But I was overwhelmed by the role that luck played in this trial.

Third, delivering the verdict was stressful.

Extremely stressful.

As a jury, we discussed all of the evidence, and we went around the table asking for everyone’s input. We then held a vote, but didn’t come to a consensus.

We went back and discussed some more. We took another vote (secret ballot) and read out to ourselves all the votes, and they all came up Guilty.

When that last vote came up Guilty, a massive knot formed in the pit of my stomach. You know the feeling, it’s when you feel terrible because something bad happened.

Because by rendering a verdict of guilty, we forever changed the defendant’s life. He will go to prison where he will be targeted by other inmates, and he will have to register as a sex offender.

We notified the bailiff and went back into the court room where we delivered the verdict to the judge. She read the verdict aloud, and once again the knot in my stomach returned. Actually, it felt like I was punched in the chest and it physically hurt.

It wasn’t fun. I was responsible for making an impact in someone’s life and it would have negative consequences.

The defendant requested that we all say for the record that the verdict was our own decision, and we each said yes.

And then it was done.

* * * * * * *

Afterwards we talked to the attorneys about the facts of the case, and got more background that we didn’t get during the trial.

Indeed, the trial only had the facts of the case. There was virtually no background or criminal history of the defendant. After I found out about it, it probably would have changed the opinions of the jurors to come to a guilty verdict faster.

I came home, and took the rest of the day off. The mental stress was finished.

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This whole Donald-Trump-Russia connection is getting weird.

Way back during the campaign, I wasn’t sure about what to make of President Donald Trump and his admiration of Russia and Vladimir Putin. At the time, I assumed that then-candidate Donald Trump was being manipulated, and obviously so – Putin would praise Trump and Trump would think it was genuine, and because he has such a need for praise, he would return it. But the praise from Putin was not real, it was false because Putin knew Trump would respond to it. Trump never figured it out. I also thought that Trump admired Putin’s way of running the country (Putin was a former mid-level FSB agent who is now rumored to be one of the richest, if not the richest, men in the world).

I never thought that Trump was indebted to Russia, I thought it was all psychological manipulation.

I heard a podcast the other day that Trump’s infatuation with Russia and Putin is an admiration for Putin that runs deep. As I said, Putin now controls a lot of wealth but keeps it all off the books. The underlying message was that Putin mixed business and government with strong arm tactics to appropriate wealth (and poison his enemies), and Trump wants to emulate this – to use government as a springboard to personal wealth and power. I kind of thought that was why he was running for President back in 2015 and 2016, and this fueled into my suspicions.

And then I read an article on Vanity Fair today: How Ex-Spy Christopher Steele compiled his explosive Trump dossier. I won’t go over the details of this, but everything is becoming uber suspicious:

– Steele had several Russian sources, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure; a former top level intelligence officer still active in the Kremlin; and a handful of other sources

– A bunch of different top aides to Russian politicians who were pretty good candidates for these sources have turned up dead

– The dossier said that Trump’s team and Russia co-ordinated on a strategy to undermine NATO alliances in the region which is exactly what happened during the campaign

– A Russian cyber security expert was arrested for treason

– So many of President Trump’s top nominations to positions of power, or close associates, look shady. From former NSA director Michael Flynn, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions who forgot to disclose he met with Russian diplomats, to Trump’s personal associates Carter Page and Roger Stone (who said he had a back channel to Wikileaks and then walked back the claim). Every time they talk about Russia, it gets so weird.

– Then-candidate Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has deep ties to pro-Russian activity in the Ukraine during the past 5 years

– Even Roger Stone, who predicted that John Podesta would be exposed soon enough, just a little while before the Podesta email leaks, had an interview on NPR. I listened to it and he denied everything. But he said some weird things, like “I never used #wikileaks” when I said the leaks from Podesta were coming.”

Huh? Why would you offer up that? It’s like he was trying to say things that he didn’t say in order to distract away from things he wanted to hide.

He sounded, to me, like he was hiding something.

* * * * * * * * *

And now I’ve become suspicious. At first I thought it was just Putin manipulating President Trump. But now I think there was some collusion.

There’s simply too many weird things going on.

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Last year, I wrote a few blog posts about my reaction after the election of Donald Trump and how at first I was in shock, but then I started to get over it.

Disappointed smile

Since he was inaugurated last week, I’ve either been holding out hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as it sounded like (repealing the Affordable Care Act), pleased that it was all bluster (saying torture works, but then deferring to his Defense Secretary [no doubt intended to appease the base at first, but then the rational people]), or accepted that we as a society are probably screwed due to climate change (leading to depression). Fortunately, I’ve been busy at work to distract my attention.

But today I am angry.

Steaming mad

You may have heard that President Trump recently issued an executive order banning people from entering the country if they are from one of several Muslim-majority nations (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya). There are a few other bans, including an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria. While saying it is not a Muslim ban and that it’s intended to avoid allowing radical terrorists into the country, many people think it’s just a euphemism to exclude Muslims because many countries that do export terrorists (unintentionally, usually) were left off the list.

My left-leaning Facebook feed exploded in outrage.

Baring teeth smile

I’ve stayed off of social media, but inside I am mad. Really mad.

Trump had said before the election that he was going to do this, so it should come as no surprise. But it still surprised me that it’s this blatant.

What bugs me about this is the lack of empathy for people trying to escape war-ravaged regions, and people on the other side – who are not in that situation – saying “Sorry, you were born in the wrong place. Go away, you’re not welcome here.”

Sarcastic smile

I find this cold-hearted and arrogant and I can’t imagine denying others entry who are fleeing from terrible circumstances (I know that there needs to be vetting; it’s something that’s already done).

For you see, back in the 1940’s, Jewish emigrants from Europe were trying to escape the destruction that was going on in their country, and no other country accepted them – including the United States. They had to turn back, and many of them ended up dying in the concentration camps.

When I was younger, I wondered “How could this be? How could nobody accept them?”

Sad smile

The answer is that the United States and the allies were at war with Germany. They were worried that the refugees had German spies among them that would infiltrate American society and undermine the US war effort. To avoid taking that chance, the US rejected them all.

That’s the same reason that’s being given today, the refugees from Syria pose a threat to US society and would undermine it from the inside.

But even more than that, I’ve written how my own grandmother was effectively a refugee after World War II, coming to North America 4 years after the war ended. But not before spending 3 years in a Soviet work camp.

What would have happened if immigration officials would have said “Sorry, but you’re German. We can’t trust you, we just fought a war with you people. Besides which, your husband fought for the Germans and was our enemy. You are too much of a risk.”

Or, what if they have said “You spent 3 years in a Soviet work camp? We’re in a cold war with the Soviets, you could be a spy. Sorry, you can’t come in. Go back to Europe.”

What then?

Thumbs down

Today, I am in the reverse position. I get a say on whether to accept refugees from places that need to be escaped from (well, not really; the party I voted for didn’t win [even though more of us voted the same way I did]). I am only in the position I am in by sheer luck. I did nothing to be born in Canada and get a privileged position of also being a US citizen. I was born in the right place at the right time.

By contrast, these other people were born in the wrong place. It’s not their fault; how can I hold that against them when the exact same thing wasn’t held against my own ancestors over 75 years ago? Had that happened, I wouldn’t be alive today. I owe my very existence to a national policy that is at odds where US policy is headed.

That’s not fair, and it makes me angry that the refugee-deniers are exploiting their privilege.

What makes my head spin is not that the US government is doing this against the wishes of the people. I know that Trump sits on a base of support, and his comments are intended to unite them behind him. I estimate that at least 25-30% of the US population is in strong support of this. Another chunk who supported Trump may not totally agree but are willing to go along with it since it doesn’t affect them.

And that is what gives me deep pause…

Don't tell anyone smile

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I was talking to a co-worker the other day about how the US political system – well, the political commentary – is all about the personality of the person running it. For example, a few weeks ago Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton named Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate (for Vice President). I was impressed with the choice; I’d read some of his answers on Quora and liked what he had to say. It turns out that in addition to being a US Senator, he was previously the Governor of the state of Virgina and previous to that, held several jobs in public service.


Yet the response to Tim Kaine amongst the media is “He’s boring. He’s too boring.” I then look at all the media circus around Donald Trump, and he generates coverage by trying to stay in the headlines even though he is clearly totally incompetent when it comes to running for public office, especially the President of the United States.

In the US, it’s all about the glitter and sizzle.

Yet contrast this with the Scandinavian countries. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway… these all have strong social safety nets, their citizens are well cared for, they have low crime rates, low rates of poverty, and regularly rank among the happiest in the world.


But can you name the leader of even one of those countries?

I can’t. Because they have a system of government that prioritizes getting things done, and not on the larger-than-life personality.

To me, competence and results is so much more important than the flash and glitter. And Scandinavia gets results because that’s what is important to them. They don’t have the same culture which places being in the spotlight (narcissism) and personal fame as one of life’s goals.

Which brings me to Canada.

In October 2015, Canada elected Justin Trudeau as its Prime Minister. He is the leader of the Liberal party, and they replaced the ruling Conservatives who had been in power since 2006. Justin Trudeau is the son of Pierre Trudeau, one of Canada’s longest serving Prime Ministers who was in power during the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s.

While I don’t have a problem with Justin Trudeau, I do have a problem with the public image that he, and the media (and so many of my Facebook friends) have created around Trudeau – a cult of personality. There are stories of him giving mini-lectures on quantum physics; stories of him running into hikers while he himself is out on vacation; pictures of him doing yoga poses; and so forth.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things… except that it creates a cult of personality around a single individual and leads us (Canada) down the path of American-style personality-politics which revels in the glitter, instead of northern European-style system-oriented, results-oriented politics.

I like Justin Trudeau, I probably would have voted for him; but I do not like the overly friendly media personality that pushes how “cool” he is. The media (and my Facebook friends) are contrasting him to the previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper – “look at how hip and with it the new guy is, and look at how stodgy and uptight the old guy ways.” That’s wrong, by constantly preaching to us how great a guy the Prime Minister is, it weakens the role of the press that is supposed to hold politicians accountable. Yes, I know you like his policies, but your job is not to reinforce his image. The government’s job is to create a system that works for all Canadians. By crafting a public image that he’s a cool guy undermines your responsibility, and it sets us up for problems down the road for the next guy.

Look at Fox News – they are unbashedly Republican, and they are derelict in their duty of whole heartedly supporting Donald Trump and his plethora of bad ideas. That’s what you get when the media is more concerned with protecting the brand than being responsible to the public.

If this guy has a cult of personality, what happens when the next guy learns from this guy and creates his own cult? The fierce partisanship of US politics should be a warning to Canada, and the press must not play a role in that.

It’s too late for us Americans. But Canada, there’s still time for us to save ourselves!





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I often read Cracked.com, a humor site, and the way they write articles is to say “Six things you didn’t know about <blah>”. They then write them in descending order. This blog post is my attempt at writing an article Cracked.com-style.

Last year, I had the chance to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland. That was depressing and left me with a feeling of disgust for humanity.

This year, I went on a much cheerier trip to Germany and along the way, visited Munich. Munich is the second largest city in Bavaria (third largest in Germany), a region in southwest Germany which was one of the last independent German states to join Germany in the 1870’s. Munich is a great city (with architecture, great atmosphere, and great beer) but I learned a few things on a 3rd Reich tour we took. The tour talked about the events between World War I and World War II, and there were several things I had never heard of before. It’s a war that could have been avoided.

So here’s some things about World War II that you probably never knew. The big one? That Munich is considered the birth place of Nazism because it’s where Hitler got his start.

6. Munich had a history of nationalistic fervor

Towards the end of World War I, the war had become unpopular with the local population, especially in Bavaria. Because the region had a large rural population, the farmers and their families were starving because they had to divert all of their resources to the military and couldn’t slaughter their last pig to feed themselves. Bavarians always considered themselves Bavarians first and Germans second, so they weren’t happy that they were being bled dry.

All of this led to rising resentment against the established government, and the last king of Bavaria ended up fleeing. That was the end of that monarchy.

After World War I, in November 1918, Bavaria set up a provisional government headed by Provisional National Council Minister-President Kurt Eisner who promised to hold elections later on in 1919. He probably could have been a decent administrator of the region. Level headed and pragmatic, he was.


However, due to growing discontent he promised to abdicate earlier but unfortunately he was shot and killed in February 1919 before he could resign. Munich had become a hotbed of extremism, with various elements wanting to reinstall the old regime.

Eisner’s assassin was a German nationalist; he was also shot, but survived to stand trial. At his trial, his defense was that he did it to save the regime, to save Germany. He was sentenced to death, but a judge in his trial, Georg Neithardt, had a history of supporting nationalist causes and ended up reducing his sentence to five years in prison. The judge effectively ignored the law. The law was later changed to make it easier to acquit the assassin. This all happened in Munich, the hotbed of Germany nationalism.

Several years later, the time and place of Munich would be key to Hitler’s rise as he resurrected the doctrine of German nationalism; beer, drinking men, and spirited speeches would grow the Nazi party slowly over time. It isn’t a coincidence that it started in Munich, it was part of a pattern.


5. Hitler cheated death once when he should have been executed for trying to overthrow the government but instead got a light sentence (a few years commuted to a few months)

After World War I, the tail end of which Hitler sat out because he had been temporarily blinded in a poison gas attack, he wandered around aimlessly before joining the Nazi party (a movement he didn’t invent, but took to a new level). He bought into the stab-in-the-back myth (an incorrect belief that the German military would have won the war had the civilian leadership not sold them out) and ascended the ranks. From here, he gave his famous speeches in beer halls around the country including the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich, and it was from there he launched his famous Beer Hall Putsch which was an attempt to overthrow the government of Bavaria. It failed, and Hitler was arrested.

The judge was sympathetic to his case because he was in Bavaria, a conservative region of Germany that longed for the old regime. This was the same judge who acquitted the guy who shot the interim prime minister/president of Bavaria I talked about above.

The judge gave Hitler the light sentence because he agreed with what Hitler was saying with regards to German nationalism. Hitler should have gotten death penalty (and we all avoid World War II)… but by an unfortunate coincidence, he instead got a judge who was sympathetic to his cause. What would have happened had Hitler not gotten that judge?

Nice work, idiot judge.

4. Hitler could have been killed when he tried to overthrow the gov’t but his bodyguard took six bullets, he just hurt his shoulder

Hitler’s goal during the Beer Hall Putsch was to kidnap some of the existing politicians, overthrow the government of Bavaria, and then use that momentum to march on Berlin.

It wasn’t well-organized. Hitler started the revolt in the evening but had to attend to business elsewhere. Upon morning, the revolt had fizzed and so he decided to take matters into his own hands and lead a revolution. However, by that time, the city of Munich had regrouped and called in numerous police officers from other regions.

The two groups came to a head, and legend has it that Hitler fired the first shot and although this was used for propaganda purposes later on, it’s unlikely to be true. In any event, the two groups exchanged fire, four police officers and 16 Nazis died in the exchange while Hitler suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell to the ground.

That sounds like he got off easy, and he did.

That’s because his bodyguard took six bullets wrapping himself around Hitler to protect him from the firefight, and the pair falling to the ground with his now-dead bodyguard on top of him is when Hitler hurt his shoulder. Those six bullets were meant for him.

Yet another unfortunate coincidence when World War II could have been avoided.

“Good” work, Mr. Bodyguard.

3. Hitler should have been killed when a guy in 1939 put a bomb in a beer hall

Did you ever hear the story of George Elser?



That’s okay, I’ll tell it to you. It was clear during the rule of the Nazi party that Hitler was leading the country towards war and probably another world war. Not all of the German population was in favor of this, and that includes George Elser.

Hitler was known for giving rousing speeches in beer halls in Munich, and in 1939 it was no different. Elser knew this, so he scoped out the place well in advance and knew that Hitler would be giving a speech there (not the Hofbrauhaus, this is a different beer hall).

Elser taught himself to make bombs and the night Hitler was scheduled to give a speech, Elser entered the beer hall a few hours in advance and planted a bomb. It was timed to go off later that night when Hitler was giving his speech, thus killing him and preventing a war.

It would have gone according to plan except for one thing – Hitler decided to cut his speech short because he had to fly back to Berlin because the war had started (and it was foggy). The bomb did go off later that night and killed several people, but Hitler was not among them. He would have been, had he stayed to give his entire speech.

Elser did not stick around to see whether or not his plan succeeded. Instead, that night he was caught trying to trying to cross into Switzerland. Normally the borders were not patrolled, but they do during times of war. The border guards questioned him and figured out (or at least strongly suspected) that he was culprit and held him in custody. The idea was to execute him publically to set an example.

The right time never came and Elser spent six years in custody. He didn’t get away though, he was executed 3 weeks before the end of the war.

Were it not for some fog and a declaration of war, Elser could have single-handedly stopped the war.

2. Hitler was a decent artist but couldn’t get into art school; not because he had no talent, because he had no artistic vision

I knew that Hitler was a wandering artist who, before and after the war, couldn’t get into art school in Vienna. I assumed that this was a passing phase, and that he wasn’t a good artist.

But it turns out he wasn’t that bad. If I were to look at the below without knowing the artist, I’d think “Hey, that’s not bad. Better than I could do.”



I wouldn’t say he was the best artist, but he certainly wasn’t the worst – at least not in terms of his drawing ability.

So why couldn’t he get into art school?

Because his art style wasn’t current enough, and it lacked emotion. By the early 20th century, the art world had moved onto expressionism which is less interested in realistic paintings and more interested on artistic expression, particularly with emotion and what the artist is feeling. It had moved away from realistic art since the middle of the 1800’s:



As you can see, the realistic style of Hitler is no where close to alignment with what the art world was looking for at the time, and as a result, they refused his admission.

Hitler did not come from a high-class aristocratic background so it isn’t surprising that he wasn’t familiar with then-contemporary art trends, just like for most of my life (and even still today) I don’t fully get abstract art.

Hitler never forgot this and he banned art and architecture movements that were contemporary at the time, such as Bauhaus architecture. Decades later, in direct opposition to those actions, Munich would open up a museum dedicated specifically to modern art.

1. When people had to cross by a certain part of Munich, they had to give the “Heil Hitler” sign. But some people walked around to avoid saying it.

Not everyone was a Nazi in Munich. Indeed, a lot of them weren’t.

After the Nazi party came to power, whenever everyone walked by the Feldherhalle in Munich, people had to give the heil salute (this was the site climax of the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923).


But the people who weren’t on board with the Nazi Party decided to openly – or covertly – mock the salute by walking around the square, going down the street behind the hall called Viscardegasse. The Nazis were aware that they were being mocked so they nicknamed the little sidestreet as Dodger’s Alley (Drückebergergasse).

The city of Munich recently put a line of gold bricks down as a memorial to the people who put up this resistance because they were risked repercussions from authorities if they were caught doing this.


So, it’s great to know that even though many parts of the country supported his rise to power, there were also large parts of the country that opposed the rule of the Nazi party, and were willing to risk their lives to do it.

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I don’t like talking about politics. Everything I write now will be wrong in a year. Or maybe even in a month. And I also have my own biases that I know I can’t see through. I’ve said to myself that if you have 100 friends on Facebook who talk about politics, only 1 or 2 are worth listening to and the rest are wasting electrons. The odds that I am one of those two are small that I shouldn’t be wasting time on my blog.

But I’m still going to talk about it because I have been interested in politics for over 25 years.

These are my thoughts at this exact moment.

Right now, the Republican presidential nomination is led by Donald Trump, an over-the-top reality TV star who has expressed viewpoints that many people would consider contentious. For the rest of the people who don’t, I only have to ask “What’s wrong with you?”

But as bad as Donald Trump is as a candidate, whenever I talk to my liberal friends, they express hope that maybe he’s not as bad as he pretends to be, and all his talk is just that – talk. They may be right, but my concern is that all his talk is not just talk. After all, if the Republican nominee becomes the President of the United States, his party has control of both Congress and the Senate.

But it’s not that Donald Trump is currently leading in the primary that has me concerned, it’s that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is second. To me, Ted Cruz is the worst candidate in the race. I dislike him more than any other candidate on the Republican side. out of the four candidates left from the Republicans, Ted Cruz would be my 25th pick. I just can’t stand the guy. He’s the only guy that I would leave the country if he were elected [1].

I don’t follow politics closely enough to have an informed opinion, all I have is a not-all-that-informed opinion. And my not-all-that-informed position is that he is a hardcore ideologue.

What do I mean?

Ted Cruz is one of the hardest right-leaning candidates in the US Senate, let alone the presidential race. My impression of him is his obstructionist stance against everything President Obama has tried to pass legislatively. That’s okay, but he’s so far to the right it’s hard to take him seriously.

  1. For example, his stance on climate change (that it isn’t real, or isn’t caused by humans) stands in the face of 97% of scientists. In other words, his position is not on the side of science and that’s because if climate change were real, it would require massive government action. But since he’s against massive government action, he has to deny climate change as a reality so he can resolve his cognitive dissonance that there was a problem that he stood in the way of (i.e., he’s opposed to something that’s not a problem is more palatable than he opposed finding a solution to a serious problem). He has to deny climate change because he is an ideologue.

  2. His economic stance is also ideological. He is opposed to increasing the minimum wage because of his belief in markets. Yet many economists say that raising the minimum wage is good for the economy because it puts more money in the hands of low wage earners who immediately spend it thus increasing the velocity of money in the economy, as opposed to concentrating it in the hands of a few people who keep it parked in their bank accounts and don’t do much with it. While that’s their right to do it, politicians have to balance economic growth, ensuring everyone has a fair chance, and retaining your money. Ted Cruz will have none of this, his position is too ideological.

  3. He’s also against Obamacare and would repeal it. I don’t fully understand the law but what I do know is that (a) it hasn’t affected me, (b) more people have insurance now than before and that’s a good thing, (c) I’ve read a little bit about it and it’s actually cleverly designed, and (d) it’s small potatoes compared to public health care in every other developed country.

    Politicians like Cruz always say that they will repeal the bill and instead pass all sorts of other solutions like allow insurance companies to sell insurance over state lines. Yet study after study shows that this does not help; in the US we will have more people without health insurance than before if Obamacare is repealed, and the people who are hit worst by this are the less well off. Yet Cruz stands behind this because he is ideologically driven.

Thus, my problem with Ted Cruz starts with his denial of reality which is driven by his ideology combined with the fact that while in the Senate he has done everything in his power to push that agenda. People who cling so tightly to ideology don’t change their mind regardless of reality. Instead, they pick and choose what they want to believe so it conforms to reality. We all do this, but Cruz is auditioning to be the President of the United States. It matters that he is an ideologue and is not persuaded by science and data.

The second thing that Cruz does that irks me even more is his polished finish and his appeal to the evangelical community. He goes into church events, thanking God for his success so far and how he is the candidate that shares the concerns of the evangelical community.

But to me, he comes off as a used-car salesman with a slick exterior hiding a sleazy beneath-the-surface interior. He convinces ordinary people that he is on their side and is fighting for them, and his cause is in agreement with divine principles. Yet the positions he advocates – denial of climate change, repealing bills designed to help poor people without health coverage, not assisting the people at the lowest rungs of society – ring hollow. That’s what you think is Christian? To me, it sounds more like the confluence between ideology and masking it with religiosity.

I try to take a neutral stance on all the other candidates. The United States system of government is good in that it separates powers and ensures that no one branch of government can become too powerful. My friends on Facebook bring up counter-examples. I just roll my eyes. So at least I can cling to the belief that this guy would not be that bad because he’d hopefully moderate his positions in the face of reality.

Yet at the same time, politics in the US has become more and more polarized, and one political party would hold all three branches of government plus have the ability to tip the balance of the Supreme Court.

And when I picture Ted Cruz winning the Republican nomination – maybe – I cringe. When I imagine him winning the Presidency – maybe – I cringe even more. And I wonder why he is the second most popular candidate on the Republican side? Is politics really that ideological? The tech geeks promised us that the Internet would allow us to become enlightened luminaries, all clinging to liberal ideals. That definitely has not happened. If anything, it’s sparked the opposite effect of people circling the wagons and retreating back to their corners.

Man, this is getting under my skin. It shouldn’t, but it is. And I know I shouldn’t be taking it so seriously.

[1] I don’t mean to say that I would actually leave the country. I think it’s now become a really funny joke that when people are worried that their opposing candidate will be elected, they are so illogically fearful of this that they say they will leave the country, but no one ever does. So I wouldn’t leave the country either, but I say this as a parody of my friends who say they will, as well as all the others who say they will also but never do.

I don’t want to take politics too seriously, but it keeps sucking me back in. I was sucked in during the 2004 campaign, too.


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Almost a US citizen

I am almost a United States citizen.

I have been living in the USA for 8 years and 4 months. I got my temporary green card in May 2012 and my permanent green card in May 2014. I applied for US citizenship in June, 2015.

The process has been a long one.

I sent in the application in June and got my biometrics taken in July. And after that I heard nothing.

Until yesterday.

In January, I have to go down and take a test where they will evaluate my ability to read and write English as well as test me on my knowledge of United States civics and history. If I pass, I am cleared to get my citizenship and take the Pledge of Allegiance.

I’m not there yet, but it’s only a month away before I am a citizen of the land I am living in. I feel like Apu when he got his citizenship. Looking back on it, that’s one of my favorite episodes.

Except the Nie-Mets aren’t my favorite squadron.



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