All posts by Frank Earnest

HB 2369 Proposal to Eliminate the AZ State Parks Board

There is an interesting editorial in the Arizona Daily Star regarding HB2369 which would eliminate the AZ State Parks Board and replace it with an appointed Director.  The primary sponsor of this legislation is TJ Shopes of LD 8.

These are the statutory responsibilities of the State Parks Board: “The Purpose of the ASPB is to select, acquire, preserve, establish and maintain areas of natural features, scenic beauty, historical and scientific interest, and zoos and gardens, for the pleasure, recreation and health of the people.”

There is nothing in the text of the bill that I can find that would justify eliminating this board, or the diverse input of citizens in the administration of such a valuable resource. There is also risk of abuse if decisions, made by a Director, are not subject to discussion and review by interested, involved and knowledgable citizens serving on the State Parks Board.  Please read the editorial, review the bill, and see if this smells fishy to you! If so, make your voice heard by contacting our Representatives for LD 11, Mark Finchem and Vince Leach.

American Carnage and Philip Roth

Sometime ago I was on a Philip Roth binge.  He is a great writer, most famous for “Portnoy’s Complaint.” This is a laugh-out-loud book and won him many kudos. Trump’s inaugural speech and dystopian view of America and American carnage reminded me of a different Philip Roth novel, called “The Plot Against America” which at the time seemed completely dark and impossible.  The plot was based on an alternative American history, a history where Nazi sympathizer, Charles Lindbergh, was elected president in 1940.  I had forgotten the “America First” association with American isolationism prior to WW II, but was reminded of it by this post from Blog for Arizona.

Pick up “A Plot Against America” by Philip Roth. It will stimulate a lot of thinking about America First and our future.

An Inauguration Day Reflection

Many of us have wrestled with a feeling of isolation from our neighbors and friends in Saddlebrooke who supported Donald J. Trump.  His campaign was disappointing to so many of us in the way it denigrated the Office of President.  From his unapologetic “birther” campaign, a challenge to the legitimacy Obama’s presidency, to his many falsehoods in tweets and speeches, to his embrace of bigotry, fake news, and conspiracy theories. Trump’s campaign was a wholesale denial of the monumental accomplishments of the Obama presidency.  There was no acknowledgement of a Democratic president and party who saved our teetering economy, restored so many lost jobs, provided health care for an additional 20 million Americans, particularly the poor, students, and those with pre-existing illnesses.  The Obama administration embraced the truth of climate change, and pursued policies to encourage alternative energy sources and technology, as well as international agreements to limit greenhouse gases. We could go on and on. All of these things were accomplished with the entrenched opposition of the Republican party. The point is that none of these accomplishments were ever acknowledged by Trump or his party, not even after his electoral victory and inauguration. There was no olive branch to the majority of Americans who voted for someone else.

What can we do? Where do we start? These questions will require soul searching. But in the end, I hope that you will conclude that we need to be engaged in supporting a different vision than the one we see before us today. That engagement will require our energy and our financial support.  We’ll have to be willing to engage our friends in data, in science, and in facts. We will have to search out the truth. It won’t always be easy. We’ll have to do some research, and compare and contrast conflicting accounts of the truth. We’ll have to decide as best we can what is true or probable, and what is nonsense. We will have to become conversant about issues we hold dear, whether its Social Security and Medicare, or environmental policy, or human rights, support of the poor and needy in our midst, or…  We’ll have to get involved in grass roots organizing, and yes, contribute some money to support candidates who embrace our goals.  For me, this will be a thoughtful acknowledgement of what I really care about for my family, for all of our families, and future families. It will take a new a level of engagement and commitment.  I hope that you will all spend some time reflecting on what you can do to support the things you care about too.

Combating Fake News!

I read a very interesting article from fivethirtyeight called “Fact Checking Won’t Save Us From False News.”  Interesting discussion from the history of news, to the many psychological issues that surround what we choose to believe and what we don’t. Perhaps the biggest new thought the article contained for me is that false news is not about accuracy, but about power.

The two most interesting suggestions for the future were 1) encouraging news outlets to stop providing a false balance or false equivalency between competing arguments where there is none. An example is autism and immunizations.  The scientific media are better at this then the general news media.  Secondly, to discuss policy the impact of policy changes on our lives.  This is one way to engage people, and to separate the personality wars from  what policy changes mean for our day to day lives.

Will Trump move the American Embassy to Jerusalem?

It seems that the cultural and political divide in Israel is as wide and entrenched as the divide in the US that resulted in a closely contested election for a president-elect who has played hard to the right in US – Israeli relations.  This divide has most recently played out in a UN Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank where the US abstained.  This resulted in the denigration of  the US position as articulated by Secretary of State John Kerry by conservative politicians and pundits.

It is clear that there will continue to be diverse and conflicting views on US – Israeli relations, and these diverse views are even present within Trump’s proposed cabinet. How this plays out will be signaled by how quickly Trump embraces moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  My guess it that it won’t happen, but like the beautiful wall Trump has promised his most ardent supporters, only time will tell.  I would recommend reading a very interesting assessment by Bernard Avishai in the NYT of the current political divide in Israel and its repercussions in the US.

It seems many nations are facing the same internal political conflict –  entrenched positions leading to strident and contentious debate arising from entirely different world views, liberal and conservative, left and right.

A Letter to the President Elect

Kathleen Parker is one of my very favorite columnists.  She is a conservative columnist, but one that I regularly read to challenge my thinking about issues and candidates.  She represents one of the many conservatives not enthralled with “The Donald” and regularly reminds her readers how far we’ve strayed from the path of reason in electing Trump as president.

Parker’s recent open letter to Donald Trump is worth a read, while the country waits to see how things play out with confirmation of his plutocratic cabinet, and how Trump shifts (or doesn’t shift) his leadership style from candidate to actual president of the United States of America.

Looking forward to becoming the loyal opposition

It took me almost a month to finally come to a new place in my thought, mood and vision for the next four years.  There may be a few things that will happen that we can cheer.  DJT seems to be taking a second look at some issues such as tarifs, climate change, the Iran nuclear agreement.  We can hope that similar moderation will happen with other issues.  Health care is perhaps most worrisome, but the complexity of repeal and replace will stall any action for months if not longer. The potential appointment of Ben Carson to head HUD is mind-boggling.  That could only be superseded by Rudy Giuliani being served up for Secretary of State. Except for Tom O’Halleran’s election to CD 1, there isn’t too much to cheer about in AZ.

Now I’m resolved to becoming an active participant and member of the loyal opposition.  I hope you feel inclined to join me.  We have to hang in there. For the next few years that is what the Democratic party is called to do.  We have to get back to the ground game and the grass roots. Hopefully we can convince so many middle class folks frustrated with stagnant wages and declining self-esteem that we want what they want, and have been striving on their behalf since FDR and the New Deal.

A sad, sad time in America

There is a very well respected (maybe not famous) book by the philosopher, John Rawls, called “A Theory of Justice.”  It is now considered a classic, originally published in 1971.

He makes the statement, right from the start, that “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.”  In other words, for a social contract to exist between people or a society, we must come to some agreement on what justice means (he argues “fairness”) and that we have to pursue and honor truth to be able to converse and make good decisions.
We have lost the ability as a nation to converse about both what is just and unjust, and to investigate reasons to support our view. More tragically, we have lost even our notion of objective truth as something we can discover based upon evidence, so in the post-modern world, whatever a person claims as truth, without objective data, is somehow true for them, and beyond questioning. If we give up on truth, then we have no common value, no common system of thought, and no common ground for discussion.  The so-called “birther” controversy is an example, but in the recent election season, there was non-stop lying to a nation that apparently stopped caring about what is true. If objective documentation from several sources is available but ignored or denied, there is no common notion of truth, and no basis for rational discussion. This is the case for the role of human activity in climate change and global warming. The consensus of experts (and I mean thousands of scientists) is that humans play a significant role. Only one political party in one western nation denies this conclusion.
That is where I see all of these discussions coming off the rails. We all have to acknowledge that some things are true, and the truth of those things can be established through thoughtful research and weighing of the evidence, seeking expert opinion, weighing probability.  However, if the existence of truth is denied from the outset, and all sources of objective information are denigrated as somehow dishonest or biased, there is nowhere to go. If we can’t agree that objective truth even exists, there can be no system of thought, no discussion, no exchange of substantiated points of information.
For me, the three big questions in this election cycle are 1) the failure of the press as guardians of truth, 2) the influence of the internet in serving up outright lies that are put on Facebook and other social media as truth to sell advertising, and 3) the public release of stolen documents by a foreign government to influence our political processes.
We can and should speak out. We can and should seek the truth and promote justice.  However, I believe we’ll have to wait until a majority of folks realize that they’ve been had. Some will never come to that conclusion, but others will see that they bet on a flim-flam artist who will never be able to deliver the goods. It will be painful, and much damage will be done before that becomes undeniably true.
A sad, sad time in America.

The end of American exceptionalism

In Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” and George H.W. Bush’s “a thousand points of light” we have all believed, at some level, that our country had some special grace, a blessing that would enliven our greater selves, our better angels, to stand up for decency, the rule of law, and the basic tenets of  honesty and truth in our public discourse. This was American exceptionalism.  Clearly, that belief is shattered by a deeply flawed candidate who appealed to the worst instincts of our country and is now president-elect. We are left with deep anxiety imagining how much a president Trump will remain aligned with the nativism and racism of the radical Right, and what the Republican party is willing to do to thwart Trump’s worst instincts.

Here is a very good editorial by David Remnick from the New Yorker magazine.

Comey and Putin have both put their thumb on the scale

Today’s announcement that the email issue involving Anthony Weiner’s laptop has been put to rest by the current Director of the FBI, James Comey, has come too late, and damaged his reputation.  The FBI has not been much of a player in election politics since the Hoover era, and should not have been involved in independent releases of information short of an indictment.

A bigger issue for our democratic processes is the intervention of foreign governments hoping to tip the scales in ways that suit their geopolitical interests.  It is pretty clear that Russia was involved in the hacking of the DNC as well as private email accounts of John Podesta and Colin Powell.  How hacking of sensitive sites and release of information plays into future elections will become an important issue for our legislators, and in particular, the National Security Agency and Department of Defense.

In the end, all we can do is try to put forward the best Democratic candidates we can find, support policies that best serve the majority of the American people, and work tirelessly for fair and free elections.