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Original Version: 9/18/2018
Last Updated: 10/5/2020
Register to vote! Time is running out!
Not yet registered? Moved to a new address? Changed your name? Changed your party? Not sure?
It's VERY easy to register, or make any of these changes. And very easy to check, if you're not sure. It's important -- any of these changes can cause you a problem on election day.
College student, home now for the Coronavirus lockdown? Make sure you're registered at home. Otherwise, you have to go back to school to vote.
In PA and most other states, you can use a simple on-line form. Takes only a minute or two. Easy peasy!
Any other good links I should add?
Original Version: 5/23/2020
Last Updated: 10/5/2020
Can't get to the polls on election day? Already decided who you're voting for? Almost all states allow you to vote early.
Some allow it in person. May be as simple as going early to your regular polling place, or to a local election office, and filling out a ballot as usual.
Some allow it by US mail. See: Vote by mail
Some states allow as much as 50 days early. Others only 5 or even 3 days in advance.
Other US states:
Original Version: 10/21/2018
Last Updated: 10/6/2020
Can't get to the polls on election day? Don't want to risk Coronavirus at a crowded polling place? Tired of waiting in line to vote after a long day at work?
Vote by mail! It's quick and easy. Fill out your ballot at home and mail it in.
Apply for your ballot now! Don't even bother to read the rest of this detailed article, unless you have questions or concerns.
In 2016, 25% of all US voters voted by mail. In 2020, with over 210,000 people dead from the Coronavirus, most states have made voting easier. Now, almost all US voters can vote by mail, and most of us will. Why not? It's so much easier!
PA allows it for the 1st time this year. You no longer need an excuse for an "absentee ballot". Everyone can now vote by mail.
This is a critical election. Make sure your voice is heard. Apply for your mail-in ballot today and vote safely from home. Also, make sure all your friends realize how easy it is to vote from home. Especially those who couldn't get to the polls, or just didn't bother to vote in the past.
Different states do it differently:
To prevent fraud, most (probably all) states don't allow you to do it all on-line.
This all helps prevent fraud, by ensuring witnesses who could later testify in court, or at least a paper trail to be audited later.
Details for each state:
Follow the mail-in voting instructions very carefully. For example in PA, failing to do any of the following can cause your ballot to be discarded:
Who can vote?
Typically, any voter is eligible for a mail-in ballot.
For states that require a valid absentee excuse, these are often valid:
Details for each state:
On the PA application:
See: Why bother to vote?
Who to vote for?
See: What candidates are on my ballot?
Any other tips or links I should add?
Original Version: 11/5/2018
Last Updated: 5/29/2020
Primary election day is Tuesday June 2, 2020, in many states including PA
The easiest way is to vote by mail. But if the deadline has already passed to apply for your ballot, go to the polls physically on election day. Either way, be sure to cast your vote!!!
Polls are open 7am to 8pm.
The most crowded times are typically before work (6-8am), lunchtime (11am-1pm), and especially after work (5-8pm). If you go mid-morning or mid-afternoon, you can be done in 5-10 minutes.
Schedule a reminder for the time you intend to vote. On your phone or computer. Or on your "smart speaker" (Alexa/Echo, Google Now/Home, Siri/HomePod), etc.
Note: If you're in line by 8pm, you're allowed to vote. Even if there's a long line of people waiting, or if a problem with the voting machines causes a delay.
Enter your home address here to find your polling place:
If you've moved recently and not yet updated your voter registration, go to the polling place for your old address.
If you're a college student living at school but still registered at your parents' house, you have to vote where you're registered.
Run out quickly to vote by yourself. Or better yet, ask your friends and colleagues if they've voted yet, and ask them to run out with you. Round up the whole team! Maybe even ask your employer to give you all some time off so that everyone can vote.
(During the Coronavirus lockdown, maybe email them a reminder instead.)
Voting is your most powerful way to influence our government, telling it how you want things to be.
Here's a 5-minute 2018 video of Barack Obama arguing against all of the excuses people give for not bothering to vote:
Personally, my goal in this election is to get rid of Trump. And every politician who supports him. I think Trump is entirely dishonorable, unable to focus, and easily manipulated and that makes him very dangerous.
I don't necessarily want the Democrats in power, but they couldn't possibly be worse than Trump, McConnell, Graham, Kavanaugh, Grassley, Cruz, Collins, McSally and all of his other enablers. When someone sets me on fire, I don't ask if the lake is fresh water or brackish. I just jump in to put out the fire.
I'm hoping with this election, we can finally:
OK. Back off my soapbox. Any other tips or links I should add?
Original Version: 3/20/2020
Last Updated: 9/22/2020
Be sure to fill out your US Census form before Sep 30, 2020, at:
Already did it in February? See WARNING: Fill out the REAL US Census form.
Back in March, you should have received an official paper mail reminder from the US Census Bureau. It tells you to go to the website, and gives you a 12-char "Census ID" of numbers and capital letters.
If not, you can still go to the site and do it without a Census ID.
It's quick and easy
The counts of people in different regions are used to decide:
The deadline is Sep 30, 2020.
Do it right now and get it off your to-do list:
Could have been done faster than reading this email! :-)
Original Version: 3/20/2020
Last Updated: 3/25/2020
WARNING: Beware of using the wrong census form and not being counted.
Last month (February 2020), the Republican National Party mailed out millions of "census-like" forms to known Democratic households. Don't believe it? See any of these sources:
How convincing is the fake?
They even took the opportunity to solicit money, with an option that says: "I am enclosing $15 to help pay for the cost of processing my Census Document." But the money really goes to Trump's campaign.
Don't be fooled. There are 3 reasons for such a mailing:
What happens if enough people in heavily Democratic areas are fooled into not filling out the real census form? The numbers get skewed in favor of Republican states, regions, and cities. So Republicans get more:
Tricking you into not filling out the census is like tricking you into not voting. For details, see It's important.
Don't be fooled. Fill out your real US Census form today at:
The deadline is April 1, 2020, but no, this is not an April Fool's Day joke.
Original Version: 10/20/2018
Last Updated: 11/4/2018
I generally like to stay out of other people's business, so I've always ignored elections in other parts of the country, figuring those people should decide what's right for themselves, and I shouldn't get too involved.
But this time, things have gone too far. Huge amounts of money are being spent on TV and Web ads to influence voters. And too much of it is being spent to support politicians that I would hate to see elected. Especially since they support a president that I find dishonorable and an agenda that I find despicable. Suddenly, it DOES matter to me who gets elected to the US Senate in faraway Texas. So, my wife and I decided how much we could afford to donate to help with the "Blue Wave".
Then, I spent days researching which races around the country would benefit most from our money. We ended up splitting our $2,000 among 30 different candidates that were all in tight races. Lots of of our info came from sites that I've now added to the Election row of my links page:
Original Version: 10/17/2018
Last Updated: 10/17/2018
Wondering why you disagree so strongly with some of your seemingly intelligent friends about politics? Why do they not see the light when you show them the facts?
Here's a good book I found recently. I bought a pile of copies (only $12 each) and have been handing them out to friends. I suggest you buy a copy, and read the intro and the 1st chapter. I think you'll be hooked.
It's the first sensible explanation I've found of how seemingly intelligent people can disagree so much with me on such seemingly obvious issues. How can they actually support Trump, for example? Are really all malicious, selfish, racist people? All of them? Or foolish people who are easily conned? Or what?
No. In many cases, it's because they are locked into a frame of reference that is very different from the one I'm locked into.
When I toss out a fact that doesn't fit their frame, they disregard it as untrue or some sort of outlier. And I do the same with facts they toss at me, when they don't fit my frame.
That doesn't make the 2 sets of facts equally true, but it does explain the bias that makes some facts hard to accept.
The book does a great job of laying out 2 different frames and how they affect our values, opinions, and ability to accept facts. According to the book, some people have more of a "strict father" mindset and others have more of a "nurturant parent" mindset, but lots of people have a mix of both.
The "strict father" types believe that the world is a harsh place with much to be feared. Kids are born bad and have to be taught to be good. Fathers must take a strong stance to defend their children from the evil world. And must punish them when they misbehave. Also, pursuing your own self-interest tends to lead to the best result for all, with the weak and undisciplined naturally falling by the wayside while the strong and self-reliant prosper. Even though I lean mostly the other way, I'll admit that some of that does ring true with me. Especially when I meet people who feel entitled to get free handouts and never want to make any effort of their own.
The "nurturant parent" types believe that the world is a good place and can be improved. Kids are born good and should be encouraged to be even better. Parents must provide a healthy, safe, supportive environment in which their kids can grow to their fullest potential. Also, protecting the interests of all, in a fair way, tends to lead to the best result for all. This rings far more true for me. It fits much better with the Golden Rule that we all learned as kids: "Do unto others..."
The result is that "strict father" types tend to believe it's wrong to help others too much. Better to let them wither away as they deserve for being weak. So they make the "moral choice" to "do the right thing" by voting against social programs that help "bad people" (those in need). And they vote for programs that reward the "good" (rich successful people and corporations).
And the "nurturant parent" types tend to believe it's wrong to not help others in need, whenever you're able to. So they make the "moral choice" to "do the right thing" by voting for social programs that help "unfortunate people" (those in need through no fault of their own). And they vote against programs that reward the "fortunate" (rich successful people and corporations, who should be more able and therefore more expected to carry the load).
Until you recognize the "frame" that you or someone is trapped in, there are limits to how much you can change your mind or theirs with mere facts. Instead, you have to change their frame, and gradually convince them that their idea of "doing the right thing" is actually mean, petty, harmful, self-serving, and generally dishonorable. And you can't do that by yelling at them. Only by setting a good example, using the right terminology, and constantly reinforcing your message.
The effect is so strong that "good" people on both sides will generally vote according to their "values", even when it's not in their personal best interest. For example, poor minorities may still vote for a cruel, petty, racist candidate if they believe in the values that he claims to support: "strength against our common enemies", "rewarding the successful for succeeding", etc. They're not necessarily being stupid, failing to understand that they and their families may lose their social security, medicare, medicaid, and other support programs. They may actually be doing what they think is "right"!
And rich comfortable mid- to upper-class people may vote for higher taxes, more social programs, etc. Again, they're not simply being stupid, failing to realize they they will end up paying higher taxes for social programs that they will probably never collect on personally. They too are doing what they think is "right"!
Interesting concept. It was a real eye opener for me.
That's why it's so hard to change the mind of people on the other side. They have a fundamentally different set of values, and may truly believe what they are saying. If you do argue with them, watch for them to give up and propose that you just "agree to disagree". That's a sign that you're getting through to them. They're starting to listen to the words coming out of their mouths and realizing that they don't like what they're hearing. It sets up a sort of "cognitive dissonance" in their brain, and they get uncomfortable and want to end the conversation.
Original Version: 10/23/2018
Last Updated: 10/20/2020 (Note: Watch for frequent updates to this tip. Be sure to refresh your browser for the latest.)
Want to have a bigger effect on the election?
Don't just vote. Don't just write a check. Volunteer your time! A day, an hour, 15 minutes, whatever time you can spare. Go door to door, work in a team room, or just sit alone at home. It's fun and easy!
Get Out The Vote (GOTV):
Encourage other people to register and vote:
Here's a great site to sign up for any of these activities. Can filter by location, date, type of activity, remote (from home) vs in-person activities, etc:
Work at the polls:
Work as an official paid "poll worker", or volunteer as a "poll observer", "poll greeter", etc. Sign up for a few hours on Election Day or for the entire day. In a typical year, many of these are senior citizens, but due to Coronavirus concerns, many of them are reluctant to risk exposure this year, so more are needed.
Observe the vote count:
Volunteer to observe the vote counting at the official country or state location on and after Election Day. Each party may have observers present to ensure that all ballots are properly counted. This is likely to be an around-the-clock effort in 4 hours shifts or so, starting at 7am Election Day (earlier in states where early counting is legally allowed) and continuing for perhaps several days. Expect there to be rules about decorum and social distancing, and perhaps restrictions on cell phone use.
In Chester County PA, contact David Mandelbaum: MandelbaumD@gtlaw.com
Other US: http://google.com/search?q=observe+the+vote+count
Work at a county or state election office
Temporary volunteer/paid positions helping local counties and states to handle all the work involved in managing an election in times of Coronavirus and increased mail-in voting.
You can also Google the names of your favorite candidates and find activities specifically in support of their campaign. Or just local candidates in general. Or in support of your favorite causes. For example:
All of this is much easier and more fun than you might expect. My wife and I have never been politically active, but this time we are "all in"! She's canvassing, I'm emailing and posting, we're both handing out registration forms and campaign literature, we've got signs in the front yard, we're working at the polls, etc.
Canvassing is easy. Especially GOTV ("Get Out The Vote") canvassing, where you're knocking on doors only of people who agree with you politically. The time for convincing is past. Now you're preaching to the choir, and just reminding them to make the effort to actually get to the polls. The organizers will give you scripts, talking points, training, etc. And you can be paired with someone more experienced if you like.
Here's a 2018 page about canvassing, described by people like us who'd never done it before, and were a little nervous:
And for those who know Brita, or know me but haven't yet met her, here's her segment of the 2018 video interview:
Any questions? Feel free to email me. Any other tips or links to add? Let me know!
Original Version: 6/17/2020
Last Updated: 6/17/2020
Want to be heard heard, beyond just voting?
Attend a peaceful, well-organized rally in support of whatever cause you believe in. It's a great way to get the attention of politicians, just by standing there quietly for an hour or two. They pay LOTS of attention to how many people bother to show up at each rally.
Rallies are peaceful and safe
Despite what you see on TV, almost all rallies are very calm and peaceful. I've attended about a half dozen in the past 4 years. In the local towns of Malvern and West Chester with dozens or hundreds of people. In the city of Philadelphia with thousands. And in Washington DC with tens or hundreds of thousands.
All were very well organized. Peaceful protesters giving speeches, carrying signs, chanting and marching along a pre-arranged route, where the police had already put up sawhorses and other barricades to redirect traffic. Lots of portable toilets, free bottled water, fruit and other snacks. I'm not much of a chanter, so I just carry my sign, and walk or stand quietly.
Ignore TV's focus on violence
TV likes to play up all the extremes to try to get more viewers. So the evening news has always focused on fires, shootings, rapes, muggings, robberies, kidnappings, home invasions, and other rare but "exciting" events. Spends very little time on the much more common but "boring" good news.
Similarly, they've played up the occasional violence, vandalism, looting, tear gas, pepper spray, beatings and rubber bullets at the recent George Floyd "Black Lives Matter" rallies. But none of that is typical. Almost all rallies are much more calm, peaceful, and disciplined. No bad behavior by police or protesters.
Bring your kids
Bring your kids to see democracy in action. Teach them to stand up and be counted. Form great memories for a lifetime. All the rallies I've attended had lots of kids, babies in strollers or backpacks, moms, dads, whole families. Recently, due to the Coronavirus, everyone wears a facemask and tries not to get too close. No hand shakes or other physical contact among strangers.
If you see anything you don't approve of, or that makes you uncomfortable, just walk away and go home for family game night instead.
My recent experience
My wife and I attended 2 recent George Floyd "Black Lives Matter" rallies. In Philly with 4,000 people. And in Malvern with a couple hundred people.
Both were very peaceful, but very powerful. The police and protesters were very well behaved. Lots of press and politicians, so maybe there'll be some good effect.
The goal of both rallies was to "defund the police", which means to reallocate some of the police budget towards other social services, like education, libraries, parks, recreation, health, and community relations.
Spend more money making people's lives better, encouraging and inspiring them to be productive members of society. Spend less locking them up after they become discouraged, hopeless and desperate. Spend less on weapons, shields and body armor for police. More on developing better relationships with the community they serve.
With no violence, vandalism, or looting at either rally, I think that message was heard.
The Philly rally had lots of press. News helicopters buzzing above the tall city buildings, filming the streets overflowing with protesters. Lots of reporters wandering through the crowd. My wife and I were interviewed by an AP reporter and her cameraman. Here's a 2-minute video clip from Philly's channel 6 ABC WPVI:
We gathered at Broad (15th) and Callowhill, in front of the old Philly Inquirer building, which is planned to become a future police headquarters. Lots of speeches, explaining the goals of the "defund the police" movement, and citing specific examples of how things could be done better. Then we marched down Broad to City Hall, east on Market to 3rd street and west on Race for more speeches (outside the home of Mayor Kenney?). Total event was about 3 hours.
It was a VERY peaceful rally. Lots of speeches, marching, signs, cameras, chanting things like:
I carried the same sign that I've carried to a half dozen rallies in DC, Philly and local towns over the past 4 years:
My wife made one that says:
Organizers were wandering the crowd giving out water, fruit, hand sanitizer, masks (but everyone already had their own masks). Also carrying trash bags for people to discard water bottles, banana peels, apple cores. And gathering up any litter along the way. Left the streets cleaner than before the rally.
The crowd was mostly young white people, maybe 25% black or other minority. Few elderly, though we got support from many of them as we marched past their houses.
No violence, vandalism, looting. No interaction w/police who hung out behind barricades at street corners, building entrances, etc. Police wore helmets everywhere, and face shields when lined up to protect city hall, Philly Municipal Services Building, Liberty Bell, etc. Lots of senior police in white uniforms, not just the low-level patrol officers. Lots of black police and white police.
The police closed all the streets used by the march in advance. No change of route, unexpected blocking of traffic, etc.
My wife brought along voter registration forms and gave them out to anyone not already registered.
A good experience. I'm glad we went!
The rally was at the gazebo in the park in the middle of Malvern. We started with a silent protest of everyone lying quietly on the lawn for 8 minutes and 46 seconds (8:46), the amount of time that the Minneapolis cop knelt on George Floyd's neck. Then a march past the stores on King Street, and looping back to the park.
Then lots of speeches by local politicians and Black Lives Matter advocates, plus some music. 2 hours total, but some families hung out in the park for a while afterwards, sitting on folding chairs and picnic blankets, watching their kids doing cartwheels, enjoying the light breeze through the trees.
As with Philly, it was all very peaceful, with no interaction between police and protesters. Malvern has only 5 full-time police, plus a few part-timers. They worked with the protest organizers, and brought in dozens of extra police from nearby towns. For crowd control and to detour traffic for 20 minutes as we marched the streets of the pre-planned route. Also had an ambulance parked nearby, but it wasn't needed.
My wife and I carried the same signs as at the Philly rally. Also gave out "Hate Has No Home Here" lawn signs. I've had one in front of my house for 4 years. Want one? I have a few spares lying around. I'll give you one if you want to put it in your lawn. Here's what they look like:
Like the Philly rally, I think it made a strong statement in a peaceful way. I'm glad we went.
Should I invite you to any future rallies I hear about?
Original Version: 10/29/2018
Last Updated: 11/7/2019
Are you disgusted with both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party? Tempted to vote for a 3rd party candidate?
Voting 3rd party may not be enough. Unless we can get enough people at the same time to all take a leap of faith together. Sometimes (especially in the 2016 election), we're forced to vote for the lesser of 2 evils, which may not be our 1st choice.
That's why I like the idea of a "Single Transferable Vote" (a.k.a. "Ranked Choice Voting").
Let me vote vote for 1st, 2nd, 3rd choices, etc., with the vote going to my 1st choice, unless that candidate ended up with a low enough count to be out of the running, in which case the vote would transfer to my 2nd choice, etc., until one candidate gets the majority.
This would allow long shots to have a better chance of beating the main 2 parties. I don't know how we'd ever get such a change since both parties would be VERY anxious to block it. But if we could, I think it would work out great!
For the first time, in 2018, the state of Maine will be using this system for their federal elections. Here's a site that talks about the pros/cons, how it was put into place in Maine, etc. We'll see how it works out!
Starting in 2021, the city of New York will do the same for primary and special elections. And it's already used in nearly 20 other American cities, including San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Minneapolis. Also in other democratic countries like Australia, the UK, and Ireland. See:
Original Version: 3/28/2020
Last Updated: 4/8/2020 (Search for occurrences of "update" below)
Here's what's in the "CARES Act", the $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus bill.
This bill is also known as "Phase III" of the various bills passed this month to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. There's already talk of a Phase IV bill, since this one was so rushed. Hopefully much smaller, just to fine tune a few things.
|28||$8.3 Billion||Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act|
|83||$180 - 350 Billion||Families First Coronavirus Response Act|
|CARES Act -- Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act|
Legend: Color-coding of partisan aspects, as I understand them:
What's in the bill
What's NOT in the bill
Here are additional items that are NOT in the bill. The Democrats wanted them, but the Republicans blocked them all. Some of this may show up in the Phase IV bill. (This was Phase III.)
Full searchable text of Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III bills, and all US Code:
More info about Phase III (CARES Act):
If you think these sources are all biased, you can find your own sources with a search engine query like the following. Email me any other sources that significantly add info, or that contradict what I've said here. I'll add them to the list and update this summary. Maybe I'll learn something in the process!
Original Version: 2/25/2017
Last Updated: 6/26/2020
Here are my 3 biggest complaints about Trump:
Trump is dishonorable
Would even his biggest fans really trust him alone with their daughters? With their money? Would any of them honestly describe him as an "honorable" man? I've started to ask that lately, and the answer always starts with "No, but ...".
For example, during the campaign, Trump saw a graph of murder rates in the US. It showed a massive DECREASE year after year for 20 years, dropping now to the LOWEST in 50 years. He noted that after the extraordinarily low rate in 2014, the rate in 2015 was actually a little higher. He cited that (accurately, but misleadingly and self-servingly) as "the biggest percentage increase in 46 years", claiming that crime is "out of control" under Obama.
Here's the full graph. See the slight uptick in 2015 that Trump was talking about? See also what he failed to mention? That the rate DROPPED every previous year for 6 years under Obama. And that it was still well below the rate when Obama was elected. How could an honorable man see that graph and claim that "crime is out of control"? Pure scare tactics!
At least that time the specific fact he cited was technically accurate. Later, he started to claim it was "the highest rate in 50 years", when it was actually the lowest rate.
Since then Trump has made flat out lying the new normal, introducing the term "alternative facts", as though we can all just "agree to disagree" on facts and each be equally correct -- an effect that will persist long past his time in office. Permanent damage has been done to the mindset and integrity of the country.
Trump is flighty
He has no ability to focus on a single task long enough to actually accomplish it. Just pokes at stuff for a while, then gets bored. He seems to think he can just make un-informed snap decisions about whatever happens to catch his attention.
He wants to "repeal and replace" w/o taking the time to come up with a good alternative. Wants to "build a wall" instead of considering that most illegal immigrants enter legally and then overstay their visa. Without considering that drug dealers can easily catapult drugs over the wall in one direction and money for it in the other direction. Or that the border goes right through the middle of some towns with nearby buildings on each side. So tunnels, ladders, drones, etc., are all easy ways to get past.
I read a newspaper article that gives some serious thought to a border wall. How effective it could really be. How expensive. Some stretches could cost as much as $1.7 million per migrant turned away!
Also, how much land would have to be seized from US citizens. How much US land would be fenced off from the US and effectively given to Mexico. The fact that the entire riverfront area of the Rio Grande river and lakefronts of resorts on Lake Amistad would be fenced off, unavailable to US citizens for fishing, swimming, boating, etc.
The fact that parts of the wall would be miles from the nearest road, so trucks and construction equipment can't get there. And that other streams flow from the US into the Rio Grande. Would they be re-routed? Dammed up? Allowed to flow through the wall but with grates to prevent people from passing through the gaps? What about fish? What about US citizens downstream who need the drinking water?
Trump doesn't seem to have considered any of these things. He just wants a sound bite "Build the wall".
Here's the article:
6/26/2020: Newer discussion of why a wall can't work
Trump is easily provoked
He has such a huge and fragile ego that it's really easy to poke him and make him react. Sooner or later, countries, companies, and other parties will figure out that they can predict exactly what he's going to do, just by poking at him all the time and seeing what he tweets in response. And that they can often goad him into doing things they want just by daring him to and calling him chicken.
If Trump had been the guy planning an invasion to end World War II, and Germany wanted to know whether he was shooting for Normandy or some other landing site, I'm pretty sure they'd have been able to goad him into showing his hand. His tweets are not only offensive, but also very revealing.
Dishonorable, flighty, and easily provoked. Not the attributes I want in a president. Do you?
Original Version: 4/5/2017
Last Updated: 7/24/2020
I don't like to get my news second-hand. Don't want to be swayed by potentially right- or left-leaning news sources. I try to go by my own direct observations of candidates, issues and facts. This is a true story from my own life.
My wife Brita has been working crazy hours for the past 2 years, dealing with the fallout of Trump's attitude towards immigrants. She's a landscape architect at a US-based and US-owned landscaping company that may be forced out of business. So, she (a US citizen) may lose her job. And worst case, we may all start noticing food shortages soon. Here's why...
During the 2016 campaign, Trump consistently bashed immigrants from Mexico and South America, referring to them as "rapists and murderers", claiming they smuggled drugs into the US, and rallying his fans with cries of "build the wall". He made it such a political hot potato that Congress didn't have the heart to renew a long-standing immigration law regarding temporary seasonal workers on H-2B visas.
In the past, there had been a cap on the number of new H-2B visas issued each year. But if you had followed all the rules the previous year, applying for an H-2B visa, entering the US legally, working here for the season, and then returning to your home country, you were "grandfathered in". You could get the same type of visa the next year. The cap (65,000 in 2017) didn't apply to returning workers. Only to new workers.
But Congress didn't renew that law in 2017. Suddenly, all of the seasonal H-2B workers who had been going back and forth as required for many years, were no longer "grandfathered in". Instead, they were all treated as 1st time applicants, so only 65,000 of them were allowed to return. I don't know how many had been returning each year, but I'd guess it was several times the number of new workers allowed each year, so probably hundreds of thousands at least. Suddenly, the limit was 65,000 total -- both new and returning.
These are the people who come here to work in farm fields, cut grass, dig ditches, install roofs, clean toilets in hotel rooms, wash dishes in restaurants, etc. You've seen them all around you, everywhere you go. You may have noticed that they're generally unobtrusive, hard-working, quietly friendly, smiling people. They don't talk much because they're embarrassed to not be able to speak English very well. They work long hard days, often in brutal temperatures, for cheap wages, doing the work that few American workers are willing to do.
Have you ever personally felt threatened by them as they worked on your house, in your garden, or in the restaurants or hotels you visited? Did they seem like "rapists and murderers" to you? Not to me, but that's how they'd been cast, so we changed the rules to keep them out.
Meanwhile, Brita's boss has been following the rules for over 20 years.
He doesn't hire illegal aliens. Doesn't pay them under the table. Always gets them official seasonal H2-B visas, withholds taxes, pays into Social Security and Medicaid, buys Worker's Comp insurance in case they get hurt, etc. Entirely legal. And very good for the US economy. The same 12 guys come from Mexico each March, and return each December. Nice stable family-owned small business for 20 years. Makes enough money to support himself, his wife, and his kids.
But in 2017, he suddenly got no visas in March, and almost went out of business.
He tried to recruit local US citizens, offering the same $12-20/hour that he's paid in the past for simple laborers up to skilled stone masons, foremen, etc. Brita worked crazy hours, scrambling to help find, recruit and interview about 10 people. A couple of them didn't even show for the interview. Another 5 or so quit within the first day or the first week, saying the work was too hard and they'd rather work in the air conditioning at McDonalds. Or they just stopped coming to work and never said why. One failed a drug test. One has stayed, but is a not a great employee.
Finally, in August 2017, I suspect Trump realized that his own hotels needed seasonal workers. In any case, he quickly and quietly got more visas authorized, and Brita's boss got lucky. Got his visas and brought his guys in to start work in August. But he'd already lost about half a year's income, and permanently lost some customers. He scrambled, pushing his crews and my wife to work long days and weekends, trying to make enough money to keep the company alive, before they all had to go back to Mexico in December.
In March of 2018, the number of visas was again very low and Brita's boss again got none. Again, Brita struggled to delay and appease potential customers, scrambling to try to recruit local workers. She also ended up doing a lot more design work since the company could still get paid for her designs, even if they couldn't find workers to do the installations. She continued working 12-hour days, often 6 days per week, just trying to keep the business from folding. Still no luck finding any local US citizen workers.
Her boss could try raising salaries to attract more US citizens, but then he would lose lots of customers since the Trump effect has made it so attractive to cheat. Many of his competitors are doing fine by hiring illegal immigrants under the table, not paying any taxes, not paying into Social Security and Medicaid, not buying Worker's Comp insurance, etc. But he wants to hire legally, pay taxes, etc., so his costs are higher and he loses a lot of customers to the competition. If he were to pay the even higher rates that US workers seem to want, he'd never win a bid, and would go out of business.
Finally in July 2018, again more visas were authorized. I think the industries that use them are all being crushed, and are complaining enough to be heard a little. Brita's boss got lucky and won the visa lottery again. You get all or none of the visas you request. So, some companies live and others die, at the whim of the government.
Unfortunately, some of the crew had wised up after losing a half-year's pay in 2017. They simply didn't go back to their families in Mexico in December. Instead, they stayed here, desperate to find more work to feed their kids. So, they became illegal immigrants the way so many do -- arrive legally and fail to properly leave. How is Trump's wall supposed to help with that? Doh!!
Those who stayed illegally knew Brita's boss wouldn't hire them without visas, so they went to work for the competition. Now that he has more visas, he's trying to get in touch with them, to bring them in legally, but 2 problems:
Brita's boss had to be careful what names he put on the visas once he got them. If he put any of the crew who stayed, he would just lose that visa. Had to find out which guys were still eligible, and assign visas only to them and to other people they could recruit from Mexico. So now, he has a less experienced crew, and his customers are getting lower quality patios, walls, outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces, etc.
And Brita is again very busy, scrambling to do the designs, proposals, scheduling, plant buying, billing, etc., for the next few months in the hope that the company can do enough business before December to survive. Otherwise, she'll be out of a job.
So, Trump is "Making America Great Again" by:
Watch the news for similar stories. For example:
I hear from my aunt Mary Jane in California that the agricultural industry there relies heavily on immigrant workers. And with no American workers applying to work in the fields, this could become a national food crisis. She's already seeing fields lying fallow or unharvested.
Not good! We need those workers! The US economy, and perhaps the US food supply, relies on them.
I suggest you occasionally set aside whatever news source you've been watching, and pay attention to what you personally see around you:
In 2019, it was the same story. No visas approved at first, shortened season, lost profits, lost customers, fewer and less skilled workers.
2020 is even worse. No visas approved ever, supposedly due to the Coronavirus. Brita's boss now has about 4 employees instead of 12. Struggling to make ends meet. Bankruptcy looming. Previous employees are still captive to their illegal employer, haven't been home to see their families in years. Thanks, Trump!
Original Version: 2/5/2020
Last Updated: 3/16/2020
Want to watch the "State of the Union" address, but not have to sit through 1.5 hours of it?
You can find it on YouTube:
and play it at double speed. See:
Unfortunately, the interactive transcript is totally trashed. Random characters, not even words. Bummer! But you can still read the full transcript here:
I read through it quickly, ignoring all of the self-congratulatory fluff, and just looking for facts. I don't have the time or resources to fact-check most of it, but 2 things jumped out at me that I DO know about:
Have any of you checked any of his other facts. Are they true? False?
I also wish he would stop trying to make us afraid of immigrants. He cited 2 cases of illegal aliens murdering people. That's 2 murders, out of 15,498 in 2018 (the last year I could find records for):
That's 0.01% of the murders. How many of the remaining 99.99% of the murders were committed by US citizens? I have no idea. Do you?
What is your personal experience with legal and illegal immigrants? I've always found them to be polite, hard-working folks, just keeping their heads down and trying to support their families. Have you seen otherwise? If so, please send me details. Here's an article studying the question in depth:
Trump also talked a lot about narcotics seized at the Mexican border. But he totally ignored the narcotics that come in on planes, boats, and through the US mail. What percent actually walks across the border? I have no idea. Do you? Why walk it across when it's so much easier to ship it?
All this "FUD" (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) is just because Trump wants to build a wall at the border. But what good does a physical wall do? It can easily be bypassed via ladder, catapult, drone, etc. And there are far greater threats to the US than people walking in to the country.
What about cyberwar? The public Internet server for my little old one-man software company blocks thousands of attacks every single day, from all over the world. How many more are aimed at our utilities, banks, infrastructure, and military? Forget about a wall! Why would anyone attack by walking across the border when they can easily take down our poorly protected computers, manipulate our financial markets for profit, impact our elections to support politicians who are friendly to them, etc. Why kill the golden goose?
Finally, if you do watch the video, pay attention to the faces of the military leaders when Trump talks about how much he's helped to make the US more secure. Do they look to you like they believe it?
Hey! Just as I finished writing this, I found that someone else has already done some fact-checking. Could have saved myself some time. See:
Thanks to Phil Hostetter for sending me this additional fact-check page. I really like the format. A full transcript of the speech, with parts underlined and fact-check comments inserted inline.
Thanks to Linda Swyderski for sending me this additional fact-check page:
I skimmed it quickly, and noticed this:
From Fidelity Investments:
So, you personally, if you're a blue collar worker, have you seen a "boom" in your net worth?
A friend emailed me to say that if you choose your timeframe and your index VERY carefully, you can actually make the 70% SEEM true. You have to give Trump credit for nearly 2.5 months of Obama's presidency (Election Day to Inauguration Day). And you have to ignore both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500. Even with that carefully chosen timeframe, both of them come in well under 70%. You have to base it on the NASDAQ which rose 78% during that time (but only 65% while Trump was actually in office).
It seems to me that my friend was working awfully hard to find some way to make something Trump said NOT a lie. I give him points for creativity and for effort, but no dice! What index was next in line? Perhaps the Bloomberg KYW Philadelphia Index? Then maybe pork bellies?
But we're quibbling over details. Trump is a con-man through and through. You can see it in how he presents his claims, even the ones that are actually almost true.
Trump claims record highs for the stock market under his watch, with no reference to the giant (Obama) who teed it all up for him. And no supporting evidence or comparison to others. Even if we give Trump credit for the 70% he claims, what about the 153% under Obama? Oh, wait! Maybe that's what they all meant by "Thanks, Obama!".
Since Trump took office, yes, the stock market has continued to drift erratically upward on Obama's momentum, with occasional slumps for profit-taking for Trump and cronies. However, it sure would be nice to get back on the track that Obama set.
OK. Let's ignore the slower Trump pace, and discuss the fact that the stock market HAS continued to rise. Trump likes to brag that it's at an "all-time high". True, but Trump can't take any credit for that. Imagine you climbed Mount Everest with someone riding on your back. And after you carried him to the peak, he laid your backpack on the ground and stepped on it, rising a couple inches higher. Would he be right to claim he was the "highest climber ever!!!"?
Trump wants you to accept his "facts" in a vacuum, as evidence that he is single-handedly "making America great". What about the comparable stats for Obama and other presidents? How much did the stock market go up under them? How many trade deals did they negotiate? How many jobs did they add? How many Nobel Peace Prizes did they win for their work in the Middle East? How many threats to US security did they eliminate? How much did they work to mitigate climate change? How much more loved and respected did they make the US as a world leader? How much safer, wealthier, happier, and more honorable did they make us?
Don't get all your info from Fox News and believe it without applying any of your own critical thinking. Make some comparisons. Do some reality checks.
(I won't mention my friend's name here unless he asks me to. I don't want to embarrass him by outing him as having been conned by Trump.)
Thanks to Jay Whitaker for challenging my numbers. He was right. I made a foolish mistake for a math guy. Obama was not 253% as I first said. Merely a FACTOR of 2.53, which is a 153% increase over the original 100%. It was my own personal stock portfolio, not the Dow Jones, that went up over 250% during Obama's presidency. Now corrected.
Due to the ongoing #TrumpSlump, Trump's gain is now entirely wiped put. After more than 3 years, the Dow Jones is back to where it started when Trump took office. And still falling fast. We'd have been better off stuffing our money in a mattress!
Original Version: 2/7/2020
Last Updated: 2/7/2020
Want to watch the CNN Democratic Candidate Town Halls from Feb 5 and 6, 2020, but not have to sit through an hour for each candidate?
Here are all 8 of them (Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Any Klobuchar, and Deval Patrick):
This is a nice format. Each candidate gets an hour, but is not just giving a speech. Is responding to questions being asked by people in the room. And being challenged and fact-checked, on the fly, by the moderator.
To watch them more efficiently, click the YouTube link at the bottom right of each, to see it at YouTube directly. Then you can play it double speed, read the interactive transcript, etc. If you get bored, you can read ahead to find a more interesting part. Or go back and re-read earlier parts. Click on any line of text to jump to the point in the video where the speaker says it.
For details of how, see:
Original Version: 2/7/2020
Last Updated: 2/7/2020
A friend recently told me:
"The world watches our President deliver his State of the Union. Regardless of what you think of the messenger, the message was about the greatness of America and the American people."
So I went and re-read the transcript to see if he was right:
Yeah, there was some of that in there, especially towards the end. But the main focus of the speech was basically "I am great. You all suck!"
I found 42 blatantly self-congratulatory phrases. Many of them comparing himself to Obama, and to the current Democratic candidates for President. Clearly, this was a campaign speech. Not to tell the Congress and the American people where things stand, and what still needs to be done. Not to inform them about the "state of the union". Just another Trump rally.
Look at the list below, or at the entire transcript. If your child talked like this, wouldn't you tell him/her it was offensive? If they put stuff like this into a college/job application, would you expect them to be admitted/hired? If you couldn't get them to stop trying so hard to impress people by exaggerating and lying, wouldn't you take them to a therapist to treat their mental health and learn the cause of their extraordinarily low self-esteem?
I have a nephew who talked like this when he very young. He was always anxiously watching your reaction, and tailoring his story to make himself look good. You couldn't believe a word he said. But we worked with him to get him to stop, and he eventually grew up. Trump has never grown up. He's still sad, pathetic, little Donny, who requires an extraordinary amount of praise, delivered constantly throughout the day, and will do anything to get it, no matter how dishonorable.
The world watches speeches like this and laughs at the US for having elected such an immature, insecure buffoon.
Here's the list. All exact quotes from the speech:
OK. So, he's an immature, insecure buffoon, and the whole world is laughing at us. So what? Shouldn't we just get him some counseling? Can't he still be a good and effective president if we all just rally behind him?
No. We can't afford the risk. Click the link below to see why this makes him such a huge national security risk. And so ineffective and easily played.
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