Conspiracies and Witch Hunts

“You can get discouraged many times, but you are not a failure until you begin to blame somebody else and stop trying.” – John Burroughs

In 1998 when her husband was under attack for, among other things, an inappropriate affair with a White House intern Hillary Clinton said: “The great story here, for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it, is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president”. As is the tendency with many folks, Ms. Clinton refused to admit the fact that her husband’s actions (the husband with the slippery zipper) were the cause of his predicament. Was there a conspiracy against her husband? Yes, just as there is a left-wing conspiracy against Donald Trump today (albeit one much less organized). But that conspiracy didn’t negate President Clinton’s repeated bad behavior.

Finding a scapegoat to blame when we get caught making a mistake is probably a natural response for lots of folks. Heck, I know I used scapegoats a bunch of times when I was a kid. Sorry, Mom…it was really me who set that backyard tree on fire and it was really me stealing Dad’s cigars so my friends and I could sneak off and smoke. Oh…and it was my fault the right rear tire on your old Mercury kept getting slick; that car would leave a black streak a half-mile long!

Another example? President Obama blamed “bad apple” insurance companies for cancelled policies after the passage of The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) rather than admitting that the flawed legislation itself was the culprit.

Vilification is another common strategy used to avoid responsibility or to deflect our attention. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you know that former FBI director James Comey, the one fired by President Trump, released a book telling his side of the story. Comey’s assessment of our President is unflattering at best (in one of his kinder passages he apparently compares Trump to a “mob boss”).

As you probably know, President Trump’s GOP buddies are already launching a campaign to vilify and discredit Comey himself rather than addressing the allegations outlined in the book. Just so you know, during his career in the federal government Comey was involved in investigating and prosecuting the alleged Clinton involvement in the Whitewater Scandal and President Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich. As FBI Director Comey sent a letter to Congress about Hillary Clinton’s emails that most people believe resulted in Trump’s Electoral College victory. And although it isn’t necessarily relevant, he also prosecuted Martha Stewart (a major Democratic contributor). Comey served as U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush and was later appointed FBI Director by President Obama. Prior to President Trump’s inauguration Comey successfully worked with both parties. In other words, Comey isn’t a Democratic Party hack.

Vilification is a common strategy these days. The second trial against Bill Cosby is underway this week in Pennsylvania. In that trial Cosby’s attorneys went after the personal character of his most vocal accuser saying she was a “con artist” after “money, money, and more money”. The problem with that attack is that Cosby already paid her $3.4 million to keep quiet about her allegations that he drugged and raped her. The current trial is a criminal prosecution so no money is to be gained by anyone. If she is a “con artist” why did Cosby pay her off? Her testimony is intended to put Cosby in prison, not result in financial gain. Again, vilification works better than addressing issues.

And now the “witch hunt” has become the modern equivalent of “conspiracy”, or so it seems.

Even though Governor Eric Greitens (R-MO) is married with two children he had an affair with his hairdresser back in 2015 when he was gearing up for his Missouri gubernatorial campaign. And yes…I did say “hairdresser”. Yet another good reason to continue cutting my own hair because I thought we still went to “barbers”.

This past week the Missouri House of Representatives released a report finding that not only had Greitens had an extramarital affair, he had likely physically abused his lover and coerced her to perform certain sex acts against her will. How did Greitens respond to this soap opera? WITCH HUNT!!! But…the Missouri legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, the committee conducting the investigation contained five Republicans and only two Democrats, and numerous Missouri Republicans are calling for his resignation. If it is a witch hunt it is one being conducted by his own party.

And, of course the best example of vilification and scapegoating these days is President Trump’s accusation that the Russia Investigation by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is a “witch hunt”. I tried to determine how many times President Trump has used the term “witch hunt” in the last couple of years but I lost count. He made that accusation again this past week when his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s properties were searched. Again, if this is truly a “witch hunt” it must be one being conducted by political opponents. Right?

  • Robert Mueller: Vietnam veteran. Appointed as head of FBI by Republican President George W. Bush and unanimously approved by the Senate. Modernized the FBI after the 9/11 attacks to better intercept potential terrorists. Served as FBI Director longer than anyone except J. Edgar Hoover. He is a registered member of The Republican Party.
  • Jefferson (Jeff) Beauregard Sessions: Republican former Alabama senator appointed by President Trump as current U.S. Attorney General.
  • Rod Rosenstein: Republican. Nominated by George W. Bush to serve as U.S. Attorney in Maryland in 2005 and unanimously approved by the Senate. Nominated by President Trump to serve as Deputy Attorney General and approved by the Senate 94-6. He approved the warrant to search Trump’s attorney’s property.

This investigation is NOT being conducted by political opponents. And if this is really a witch hunt I doubt it would have resulted in nineteen indictments (more to come), five of which are against Americans. Four of the five indicted Americans have pleaded guilty.

Just as a “vast right wing conspiracy” could not be blamed for all the Clintons’ messes, a “witch hunt” is not to blame for the situations confronting Eric Greitens and Donald Trump. As my Dad always said, “you make the bed you lie in”.

The best option, an option available to us all, is to play fair and tell the truth. Why is that such a challenge for so many of our leaders?






Some Good News

I was having coffee with one of my best friends and discussing my frustrations over the number of readers I’ve attracted during the last year. Between 150-200 folks usually read my posts but I had hoped to have lots more by now. Yes…I’m sure it is my ego at work. Doesn’t EVERYONE want to read my musings?

My friend suggested that maybe people are just tired of all the negative stuff going on in the country and the world, and since I tend to focus on some of that negative stuff maybe that partially explains why I’m not getting more readers.

Here are some things about which to be happy and optimistic:

  • In 1820 almost everyone on the planet lived in some level of poverty and very few people actually had higher standards of living. Poverty rates have steadily declined during the last 200 years even as the planet’s population increased seven times. In 1820 about 94% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty but by 2015 that number had dropped to 9.6%. In 1836 the world’s richest man, Nathan Rothschild, died of an infection that almost everyone on the planet would have treated today.
  • The world’s population is becoming more literate. In 1820 only 12% of the planet’s inhabitants were literate and today that number is 83%. This has obviously been a consequence of increased access to education across the plane.
  • Although American life expectancy rates have actually dropped the last two years, mostly because of the opioid crisis, life expectancy rates have risen steadily across the planet in recent decades and that trend is expected to continue. Women tend to live longer than men because they are less likely to abuse alcohol, use tobacco, or engage in other harmful behaviors as are men. By 2030 the average woman will live more than 85 years and women in South Korea will live past 90. Overall, life expectancy on the planet has almost doubled in the last 100 years.
  • Artificial Intelligence capabilities are being developed that have improved and will increasingly improve our lives in numerous ways. You can read this cool story on Watson, the IBM AI being used to diagnose diseases and much more. Yes…the TV ads on Watson are accurate (but annoying). Many of industry’s most dangerous jobs could eventually be replaced by AI driven robots that can perform tasks more efficiently and safely.
  • Michael Brown, a 17 year old senior from Texas, was accepted by all the top 20 universities in the United States and offered full scholarships at each. That includes admission and free tuition to every Ivy League school, Stanford, and Vanderbilt. No student has previously accomplished this. And everyone says he’s a good, well-rounded young man. And he wants to major in Political Science!
  • Contrary to popular belief, American homicide rates have actually declined during the last two decades or so. American homicide rates peaked during the 1970’s, 80’s, and early 90’s then began dropping significantly. According to this research, homicide rates were much higher during America’s early colonial period.
  • Larotrectonib, a new cancer drug, “was effective in 93% of pediatric patients tested” and had a 75% response rate in adults. Whereas most cancer drugs target a specific organ or affected area, this drug may actually treat a variety of cancers. Read this story about a 13 year old girl whose life was saved by Larotrectonib.
  • Because humans decided to establish policies phasing out chemicals used in aerosol cans, refrigerator coolant, and air conditioning systems, the Earth’s ozone layer is actually recovering. The use of chloroflurocarbons was causing the ozone layer to thin, so humans were at greater risk of skin cancers, plant growth was inhibited, and more. This intervention is proof that we can actually solve environmental and other problems if we have the resolve to do so.
  • Because of increased sex education in at least some American states and because of other forms of sex education, teen pregnancy rates have been on a steady decline in recent years after teen birth rates hit an all time high in 1991. Research indicates that more teens are abstaining from sex and more are using birth control when they do have sex. Colorado reduced teen pregnancy rates by 40% and abortion rates by 35% when a law providing free birth control was passed.
  • In the average developed country taxes are a 34% share of gross domestic product. American taxes are only 24% of GDP. In fact almost every developed country has a higher rate of taxation than does the United States.
  • The sun is expected to burn steadily for another 5.4 billion years. That is a good thing because solar power is quickly becoming the Earth’s most affordable form of energy. New technology and materials will make it even more affordable and accessible in the future.
  • As much as I sometimes question its value, the number of people with access to the internet has increased from 16 million in 1995 to almost 4.2 billion today. This matters because more people have access to information and also may begin to understand that those we previously thought were enemies are in fact people just like us. We truly do have the opportunity to become a world village. The internet may certainly be used for evil causes as well, but I would like to think that with increased knowledge comes the opportunity for increased awareness. As you know, I am a dreamer.
  • The number of people dying in wars has steadily declined since the 1940’s and that number is currently at its lowest level in seven decades.

My wife and I have traveled to numerous countries and I have visited at least 46 American states. Everywhere I go I find people who are kind, generous, funny, and loving. I continue to believe that almost all humans are basically good but that those who aren’t get all the press coverage.

Thank you for reading my blog.

And thanks for making me consider happier news in at least one post, Julie!