Friday, March 24, 2017

Try Now for Single Payer

A movement is afoot for Democrats to seize the day, to follow up the Republican defeat on Trumpcare with a single-payer health care bill.

The Democratic leadership in Congress should do exactly that.

The late Sen. George McGovern said such a bill could be written in a single sentence: "Henceforth, everyone in the United States is eligible for Medicare."

Of course the Republicans control both houses of Congress and have enough votes to defeat such a bill.  It's doubtful if enough Republicans have been singed by the fight they just lost to cross over and support single payer..  Even if that miraculously happened, Donald of course would veto the legislation.

But if the Democrats really want to serve their constituency, which, remember, is larger by three million voters than Donald's, they should make the most of this opportunity.

Donald's code after his defeat is easy enough to crack.  He said the Republicans should wait for the Affordable Care Act to "explode" and then act to create a "really great" health care plan.  After seven years of failure, there is no reason to think that they're capable of doing so. But what Donald was saying is that Secretary Tom Price will devote the entire resources of his Department of Health and Human Services to sabotaging the ACA in every way it legally can -- as well, probably, as a few ways that are not legal.  Donald will contribute nefarious executive orders to help with the sabotage.

The ACA is far from perfect.  In fact, it is loaded with flaws. These will make it even easier for the Trump/Ryan sabotage of the ACA to succeed.

It would be well for the American people to have a clear record of the Trump Republicans  having rejected a real solution -- Medicare for all -- before their sabotage succeeds in destroying affordable health care for millions of Americans.

If a vigilant press catches and exposes some of the dirty tricks, and the Democrats try to get single payer now, but are thwarted by the Trumpistas, there will be a genuine opportunity for a change of power in Congress in the 2018 mid-term elections.

And that would be at least a start toward heading off fascist despotism in this country.

Take THAT, Stupid Newbie!

The fat fraud who conned his way into the White House received a hard lesson today in how Washington, DC, works, and does not work.

Muscling congressmen, even of his own party, is a lot different than muscling the subcontractors, workers, lenders and TV whores he rolled over on his way to wealth and celebrity.

The House of Representatives said “No” to the deal he tried to fashion on a so-called health care bill.  Even though Donald had demanded a vote today, Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill off the floor rather than calling a vote and suffering humiliating defeat.

The alleged president’s first reaction was to blame Democrats.  Surely Alt-Pres. Bannon will come up with something better.

Meanwhile, the ruling party is in chaos.  Hard-line right wingers in congress say the Ryan-Trump bill was too much like what they like to call Obamacare.  Less extreme Republicans, sensitive to the health care needs of their constituents, realize that Trumpcare took away too many of the good things from Obamacare and offered nothing to replace them.  Where can they go from here?

Republicans have had seven years to come up with a form of health care that can replace the Affordable Care Act without harming many millions of people. Even working with the self-styled great deal-maker himself, they were unable to accomplish that.

I remember being startled when an acquaintance, a practicing physician, told me he was going to vote for Trump.  “Well,” he said, “I simply cannot stand the other candidate.  And maybe the guy will do something.  If he does ONE THING, it will be an improvement.  And if that one thing is a better health care plan, it would really be great.”

Sorry, Doc.  You wasted your vote.

Another friend, a retired physician, wondered about the effect on the 2018 congressional elections if Trump/Ryan succeeded in repealing the ACA.  That was unlikely this time around.  Even if there had been enough votes in the House to move the bill forward, it almost certainly would not have passed the Senate.

But that’s all irrelevant now.  Trumpcare is dead and the so-called president has said he wants to move on to other issues.  But, like everything he says, that may have been just blue smoke, a negotiating posture, an outright lie.

The next step remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Donald had better find someone, anyone, willing to join his team who knows at least a little bit about how Washington works.  Or doesn’t work.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What Are They Hiding?

One of the TV talky-talks unearthed John Dean the other day.

Dean, White House counsel to President Nixon, was asked about parallels between Watergate and what’s going on in Trumpistan.

Watergate brought an inglorious end to the Nixon presidency.  Unless Donald is impeached or removed from office via Article 25, any such parallels are specious at best.

Although his death scandal was named for a  break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters, it wasn’t the original crime that brought down Tricky Dick, it was his involvement in the cover-up. The central question of the impeachment process was, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

The central question in today’s investigative process is, “What is the president hiding and why is he hiding it?”  We don’t even have an original crime — yet.  All we’ve got is what appears to be a cover-up. 

Cover a fire and you get smoke.  The joint report of our intelligence agencies found smoke, reason to believe that the Russian government not only spied on the inner workings of our presidential politics, but tried to influence the election on behalf of Donald.  They offered no real evidence.  One might be inclined to dismiss their conclusions, except . . . .

. . .why did Gen. Flynn lie about his contacts with the Russian ambassador?  If they were innocent and proper, as the regime insists, why did he feel compelled to dissemble?  What was he hiding?  Whom was he shielding?

. . .why was Jeff Sessions less than forthcoming about his contacts with foreign agents?  If the contacts were lawful and proper, why did he not disclose them fully when asked about them? What was he hiding, whom was he shielding?

. . . and most obviously, why will Donald not make public those damned tax returns?  Given his massive ego, his reluctance was ascribed by some critics to fear of having it revealed that he’s not as rich as he says he is. That theory seems to have been dispelled by the recent leak of two pages of his 2005 tax returns.  He paid taxes that year on more than $150 million of income.

Others have suggested that he is suppressing the returns because they would show that he paid no taxes at all over several years.  But that doesn’t hold water, either.  Donald boasted during the campaign that if he paid no taxes, it simply shows “how smart I am.”  If the returns merely proved how smart he is, he’d release them yesterday.  What is he hiding?

The extraordinary testimony Monday of the FBI director and the national intelligence director, confirming that a sitting president is under investigation for possible illegal dealings with a foreign power, plows new ground for presidential scandal.  Watergate and Teapot Dome, for example, involved wrong-doing by presidential henchmen, not the chief executives themselves.  

Donald says he has no business deals in Russia, that his real estate deals with individual Russians have been perfectly legal, and that neither Flynn nor Sessions nor Paul Manafort nor Jared Kushner nor Rex Tillerson nor anyone else in his coterie  has colluded in any criminal way with Russia or Russians.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Our New National Priorities

It’s costing the taxpayers about $183 million a year for security for the  First Lady to live in in New York rather than the White House so that the First Brat can continue to attend his fancy private school in Manhattan.

But the government can’t afford $142 million a year to support the National Endowment for the Arts.

Providing security for the First Family’s lavish lifestyle, including frequent trips to the gilded digs in Palm Beach, will cost the taxpayers a billion dollars over the next four years— eight times what it cost to provide such security for the Obamas.

But the government can’t afford $200 million in grants to states to provide Meals on Wheels for senior citizens.

Trumpcare will leave 24 million of the neediest Americans without access to health care.  

Soon there will be no public schools in Amerika.  Your kids will be given vouchers to pay to attend charter schools where they’ll be given daily doses of religious brainwashing, but no exposure to the work of Howard Zinn, Caesar Chavez or Sinclair Lewis.

This is a country that can afford an extra $58 billion for superfluous weapons of war and mass destruction . . .

. . . by cutting $6.2 billion from funding for housing and urban development . . .

. . .$2.4 billion from public transportation (while allowing private cars to spew more harmful emissions into the atmosphere). . .

. . .$12.6 billion from health and human services, eliminating federal aid to the largest provider of health care for the nation’s poor women. . .

. . .$9 billion from education . . . .

. . .and totally eliminating the agency that sees to it that we have safe water to drink, clean air to breathe and won’t be poisoned by the food we eat.

Besides the National Endowment for the Arts, the following programs will be eliminated:

• The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before- and after-school programs and summer programs
• Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which funds research including clean energy
• African Development Foundation
• Appalachian Regional Commission
• Chemical Safety Board
• Community Development Block Grant, which in part funds Meals on Wheels
• Community Development Financial Institutions Fund grants, under Treasury
• Community Services Block Grant, under HHS
• Corporation for National and Community Service
• Corporation for Public Broadcasting
• Delta Regional Authority
• Denali Commission
• Economic Development Administration
• Essential Air Service program
• Global Climate Change Initiative
• Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Chesapeake Bay funding, and other regional programs under EPA.
• HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, all under HUD
• Institute of Museum and Library Services
• Inter-American Foundation
• US Trade and Development Agency
• Legal Services Corporation
• Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
• McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program
• Minority Business Development Agency, under Commerce
• National Endowment for the Humanities
• NASA's Office of Education
• Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
• Northern Border Regional Commission
• Overseas Private Investment Corporation
• State Energy Program
• Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, the second-largest program feds have used to influence local education
• TIGER transportation grants
• United States Institute of Peace
• United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
• Weatherization Assistance Program
• Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

These are programs that actually help people.  They don’t make oligarchs richer, corporations more profitable or remove natural resources leaving only pollution behind.  They actually help people.

No wonder there’s no place for them in Trumpistan. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bad Day at The Forum

Right-wing congressmen here in the west are getting an earful at their public forums for constituents.

Yesterday it was the turn of Stevan Pearce, a Tea Party darling who has won several terms to represent New Mexico’s conservative Second (southern) Congressional district.  

A crowd estimated at between 1,500 and 3,000 people turned out at the Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces for Pearce’s “town hall” event.  Every legal parking spot was taken and dozens more vehicles were parked illegally; the auditorium was jammed to the walls, standing room only.  It was a hostile crowd.

This was a new experience for Pearce, whose public forums back in the district are usually dominated by his supporters.  Once, for a forum in rural Dona Ana County, his supporters surrounded the parking lot with ATV’s and packed loaded firearms.  Needless to say, few if any opponents even tried to park there.

Saturday’s event was entirely different.  Pearce always comes to these town halls well prepared with alternative facts and/or cherry picked data to support standard positions of the far right.  His language is directly from the American Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute and the American Petroleum Institute.  He became a multi-millionaire selling and leasing oil and gas-drilling machinery, and friendly oligarchs of the extraction industry bought him his seat in congress, where he is careful to serve their interests 100 per cent.  He does a passable job of making the right-wing think-tank language sound like his own, and usually that’s enough to get him by. At one forum a few years ago, for example, a member of a scientific team that had done an exhaustive study of the energy needs of the southwest, citing detailed economic evidence from the study, asked why he did not support development of wind power in an area that “has lots of wind.”  Well, Pearce replied, “those wind farms are unsightly.”

The old tactics didn’t fly Saturday.  Even though he wandered to every corner of the auditorium, randomly selecting questioners, virtually no friendly softballs were tossed.  Questioners came prepared, with carefully thought-out, usually written questions that cut to the chase of issues they care about: health care, immigration, public education, public land, climate change.  More than once he was asked when if ever he would “stand up” to Donald Trump.  When  his evasive answers were greeted by jeers and catcalls, he turned his back on the questioner and walked away.

Asked about the mountain of scientific data on anthropologic climate change, Pearce retreated to the long-since discredited argument (launched in 2009) about e-mails sent by certain scientists in an international climatic research council.  When the questioner interrupted to point out that newer data refute all the attacks triggered by those e-mails, he turned and walked away.

When a questioner pressed him about whether Republicans in congress should demand that Trump release his tax returns, Pearce said that will not happen, turned and walked away.

Most of the hostile questions drew loud applause; most of his evasions drew contempt.  A few supporters in the crowd shouted barnyard epithets about Hillary.  Deputy sheriffs asked one of the loudest to please tone it it down.  He stalked out of the auditorium.

For almost a decade, Pearce defied prevailing public opinion in his district and opposed the creation of new national monuments to protect archeological, cultural, historical and scenic areas.  With the support of New Mexico’s two U.S. Senators, the monuments were created by President Obama.  Subsequent studies have shown an uptick in business related to tourism, with a potential for much greater economic impact when the development of the monuments is completed (Republicans, led by Pearce, have slowed the development by withholding funding).  Pearce says the monuments have cost the area money.  A questioner asked where he got his information.  “From the people who ran the Chili Challenge,” he said.  (The Chili Challenge was an annual assemblage of off-road vehicle operators who tore up the fragile desert around the Robledo Mountains with racing and climbing competitions.  The only local businesses they ever patronized were two convenience stores that sold gas, beer, liquor and fast food.  The monument boundaries adjoin the desert area where the ATV people partied.  When the monument was approved, sponsors moved the “challenge” to another location.  Pearce receives large campaign contributions from sellers of ATVs and associations of ATV users.) When the questioner pressed for hard economic data, Pearce walked away, angrily repeating, “The Chili Challenge is gone.  The Chili Challenge is gone.”

Twice the microphone the congressman carried around the auditorium malfunctioned. The second time it happened, staffers hastily assembled a new microphone extension.  While he waited for it, someone shouted, “Use the microwave.”

It was that kind of day for Stevan Pearce, Tea Party darling. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Man, the Killer

Every day I receive several alarms about the plight of wildlife: nearly a hundred species are in real danger of vanishing from earth by 2050.

What with climate change, wars and the election of people like Trump to high office, the danger only worsens.  The state of Colorado, for example, emboldened by the new regime’s selection of an environmental criminal to head the EPA,  has just authorized massive trapping and snaring of cougars and black bears.  The reason given is to enlarge the mule deer population for the benefit of hunters.  This is backward thinking and false game management.  Oil rigs,  fracking facilities and trophy homes that diminish deer habitat kill far more of the animals than cougars or bears.

In the words of Immanuel Kant,  “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”

Colorado’s neighbor, Wyoming, is renewing the slaughter of wolves.  In 2012 the state withdrew endangered species protection for its wolves, declaring a “free fire zone” over 85 per cent of the state.  A federal court halted the slaughter.  Now an appeals court has reinstated the free-fire zones.

All over the world, hunters, poachers, habitat despoilers and land-grabbers are decimating wildlife populations.

In my state of New Mexico, cynical ranchers are slaughtering Mexican gray wolves faster than they can be bred and reintroduced to the wild.  More than once I have gone into the surrounding desert to romp with my dog and found mounds of coyote carcasses.  ATV-mounted gunners hold contests to see how many of the animals they can kill and award prizes to the best killers.  Coyotes, of course, are not endangered, but the ugly slaughter typifies the depraved attitude that allows poachers and other illegal killers to prosper.

Official tallies now list 45 “critically endangered” or “endangered” species, including leopards, hippos, dolphins, rhinos, great apes, turtles, sharks, porpoises, monkeys and elephants.  Desperate to halt the slaughter of its elephants, Namibia has established fines of up to two million dollars and sentences of up to 25 years in jail for poaching.  The penalties will be difficult to enforce because poachers outgun and outnumber the wildlife rangers, who work in fear of their own lives. One conservation organization claims an elephant is slain every 15 minutes.

Why should we care?

Five centuries before Christ, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras told us why.  

“As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings,” he wrote, “he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other.”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

But Wait! There's More! Order Now and . .

Give the guy credit: he sold one helluva lot of snake oil last night.

Talk about job creation! The responsible media had to hire extra fact=checkers to keep up with all the lies, half-truths, misleading innuendo and downright wishful thinking in his speech to a joint session of Congress.  It was an audience of willing believers.

Quickie polls showed that up to 78% of the TV watchers, mostly Republicans, approved of the performance.  Even the failing New York Times called the speech “presidential.”  Compared to what?  Bush II?

Ronnie Reagan won the descriptor “presidential” because he was a gifted B-movie actor.  He spent eight years playing a Hollywood version of a president and his worshippers loved it.  This new guy attained his celebrity by playing the role of a powerful executive on something called “reality TV,” which, of course, is as real as the “landslide” victory he claims to have won in the Electoral College.  But when his string-puller, Alt-Pres. Bannon, tones down the language — as he did last night — the titular president can play it fairly straight.

But if his style was vaguely presidential, his substance was pure snake oil.  He promised big tax cuts, but offered no numbers, no details on how he intended to accomplish this.  Meanwhile, he promised to make America great again by beefing up its military spending bigly.  The increase in the military budget is greater than the total military budgets of the next-biggest spenders on war toys among the nations of the world. This is madness.

It’s clear that interest rates are about to rise.  So we’re going to throw tons of new money into the military hog sty, cut everybody’s taxes and pay more interest on the federal debt.  And in the very next breath he criticizes the guy who came before him for increasing the national debt.  Debt is a vile four-letter word to congressional Republicans.  Will they stomach this guy’s pipe dream?

Who’s going to pay for his craziness?  Not corporate America.  He wants to cut their taxes, claiming that they pay the highest rate in the world. False.  It’s not even in the top 30. Our multinational corporations, many of which pay zero taxes most years, have dozens of cute accounting tricks and loopholes that assure the greatest tax burden for the operation of the country will be borne by the wage-earners, not the corporations. The system enables them to defer payment of taxes so that they can, in effect, make money off their unpaid taxes by investing them and earning interest on them.  

He boasted about jobs.  Despite his wild claims,  his actions have accounted for about 1,300 jobs — and that’s being generous.  He said he “saved” the jobs at the air=conditioner plant in the midwest, but in fact only about half the positions remained in place.  The Michigan auto plant will account for perhaps 700 more.  The “new jobs” at other companies he named were, in fact, in the pipeline long before the election last November.

Speaking of pipelines, he boasted that the environmentally-destructive Keystone and Dakota pipelines he’s pushing will create thousands of new jobs,  In fact, they will create 35 permanent new jobs.  All the rest are temporary jobs associated with the actual construction work, jobs that actually cost the affected communities money.  They have to tap the tax dollars of local residents and businesses to pay for expanded services — police, fire, education, sanitation — for the temporary workers who lay their pipe and then move on. Inevitably the pipes they’ve laid will rupture, sending thousands of gallons of highly toxic tar sands crude into the drinking water of the permanent residents. More snake oil: he boasted that he has “ordered” that only U.S.-made steel be used for the pipelines.  This, if it actually happens, would be a departure from his own practices in building his towers and sprawling resorts.  All of them were built with foreign-made steel.

Consider immigration.  He hinted that he’d be open to some sort of compromise that might offer somewhat more humane treatment for some of the people of color he’s been targeting.  Or maybe he didn’t.  Not even his cronies in Congress are sure, but many of them felt blind-sided and said so when they emerged from meetings to learn what he said a few hours before his speech. He salved them, though, in the speech itself when he promised unprecedented police brutality in ferreting out the potential criminals among those illegal people of color. 

But never mind the facts. His performance fooled a lot of people.  What can you expect from an audience that thinks “reality TV” has something to do with reality? 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Orders for Obama's Army

Barack Obama
c/o Sir Richard Branson’s Luxurious Yacht
Somewhere in the Caribbean

Dear Barry:

Bet you’re likin’ not havin’ to put up with all that “Mr. President” hokum any more, eh?

I hate to interrupt your sky-surfin’ and all that other fun, but I thought I would check in for a new set of orders.

Just to restate my bona fides, I did protest at my congressman’s office, even though he did not hold a town hall this recess.  I think he was afraid of the questions we’d be asking, like why does he want to take away our clean water protections and our health care.

And I did join the women’s march protest, as you ordered me to. I also went down to the bus station to see if your bus to Ohio had room for me so that I could be an outside agitator in accord with your wishes.  But there was no bus there and the agent said he never heard of one.  Please clarify because I distinctly heard your successor say that there were busloads of us all over the place. “It’s just politics. That’s just the way it is,” he said, and if there’s any kind of politics I want to be a part of, it’s just politics.  See what I’m sayin’?  Like, we've had enough of unjust politics!

For your convenience, I am enclosing a list of possible signs to carry at the protests you order me to organize and participate in.  Please check the ones you authorize.  I would hate to be caught carrying an unauthorized sign; I certainly don’t want to be dismissed from your huge army of protesters.  My personal favorite among the signs is “Lock up Spicer,” but, to repeat, I will follow your orders on this.

I understand there is a movement afoot to cut off liquor delivery to Alt-Pres. Bannon’s office, but since I have seen NO official approval of it from you, I have not joined it.  Can’t be too careful these days.

I’m sure you are enjoying your post-presidency time, being at leisure to plot the destruction of the country with your Kenyan Muslim friends while sailing in luxury on the high seas.  Watch out for Russian submarines :) LOL!

Your obedient servant,

Monday, February 27, 2017

Who Knows?

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. There are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.  — Donald Rumsfeld..

* * *
Oh, for the good old days of relative clarity in Washington. The new regime has taken the follies of Bush II to new depths.

It was the Bush mastermind Karl Rove who first demonstrated how effective a political tool psychological projection could be.  That’s when you deny your own most negative qualities and attribute them to others, particularly others you deem to be enemies.

The titular president loves the tactic. Always has. He found it useful in his tabloid-press wars with social, business and reality TV rivals. Alt-Pres. Bannon, too,  is fond of such projections.  His acolyte, the sleazy James O’Keefe, recently offered a $10,000 reward to anyone "who can provide evidence of corruption, malfeasance or wrongdoing” — in the media! Bannon himself, of course, specializes in alternative facts.

Fending off this administration’s tsunami of lies is like holding back the tide at Fundy: can’t be done.  The lies serve the regime’s purposes for at least two reasons.

One is that they involve things the base voters want to hear — terrorists streaming across our borders and through our airports; unnecessary environmental regulations preventing our altruistic corporations from creating millions of jobs; Obama, the Kenyan, secretly plotting our downfall with his Muslim friends and relatives; and, of course, the lying media. Absolute proof that “they” are out to get “us.”

They other reason is that exposing the lies responsibly requires an alert and ethical set of news  organizations.  If they’re busy digging up the facts to refute a dozen irresponsible tweets and Spicerisms every day, they’re using resources of time, people and money that could otherwise be employed digging up the awful truths about this regime.  The titular president’s tax history; his abuse of litigation to crush adversaries; the foreign business and personal connections that compromise his responsibilities as president; the real effect of his hostile policies on issues of vital national interest such as the environment, the social safety net, the infrastructure, women’s rights, minority rights, in fact, the rights of anyone who is not part of the ruling oligarchy.

While the responsible media are busy refuting the regime’s lies, an emboldened right-wing propaganda machine pretending to report news is busy “verifying” the White House falsehoods.  Sometimes, they get serious egg on their faces, which is entertaining, if not particularly significant.  Take the recent Sweden flap.  It began with the titular president telling a crowd of his supporters that something bad— he didn’t say what, but implied it was terroristic — had happened in Sweden.  This was news to Sweden, and led to a lot of wicked humor on late-night TV.  

Faux News’s bloviator in chief, Bill O’Reilly, stepped into that affray with both feet.  He produced one “Nils Bildt,” a “Swedish defense and national security advisor,” who provided all sorts of lurid details in support of the original fabrication.  There were a few problems with this.  1.  The guy’s name isn’t Bildt.  2. He doesn’t live in Sweden.  3. He is no more a defense and national security expert than La La Land is the Oscar winner for best picture. 

None of this, of course, makes a bit of difference to the Worshipful Masses.  It’s just another known unknown.  Or something.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Death Knell

The Democratic party drove the last nail into its own casket when it elected Tom Perez to be its new national chairman.

A nation saddled with the most inept, criminal, racist administration in its history will have no real opposition party.  The same corrupt Democratic machinery that turned away from the New Deal, gave us Dr.Kidglove Obama and arranged the doomed candidacy of Hillary Clinton will continue to cede control of the judiciary, national and state legislatures, governorships and even local councils and boards to the right wing extreme that has taken over the Republican party.

Benjamin Franklin famously challenged us to keep the democratic republic he helped to forge in Philadelphia in the Eighteenth Century.  At last, we have failed.

The contest between Perez and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota was depicted as a contest between the establishment and the progressive wings of the party. What was really at stake was the future of the Democratic party as a viable force in American politics.  In the last eight years, the Democratic party has lost nearly 1,500 legislative seats and elective offices around the country. It has just decided to continue doing exactly what it has been doing, while somehow expecting different results.  That, according to Einstein, is the very definition of insanity.

What is particularly disturbing about the selection of a chairman is the number of electors who opposed Ellison because he is a Muslim.  It wasn't about religion, they seemed to say, or about race.  It was just that Bibi Netanyahu, the right wing extremist who rules our ally, Israel, would be terribly upset if the party put such a person in the chair, and would hold it against future presidential candidates of the party.  As the  current occupant of the White House might tweet:  SAD.

Over and over again, first Bill Clinton, then Barack Obama, then Hillary Clinton told liberal Americans, in effect, to go f—k themselves.  Always, they turned the other cheek, usually invoking the lesser-of-two evils argument.  It seems never to have occurred to the Democrats, right, left or center, to stop nominating lesser evils and start nominating candidates who represented the fundamental ideals of the party.  

Democratic candidates are supposed to represent the interests of working Americans, not Wall Street bankers.  They are supposed to develop and enact programs that help people, not corporations.  They are supposed to consider health care to be a right, not a perk that you can afford if you’re rich.  They are supposed to endorse the notion that every person;s vote has equal weight to every other person’s vote, regardless of geography.  They are supposed to care about the environment. not profits, because we have only one Earth and it must sustain many forms of life in order for humans to thrive. They are supposed to favor civil rights for Americans of every color, every creed, or no creed at all; of every sexual orientation; whether native-born or wretched refuse of other teeming shores. Democrats are supposed to form governments that beat swords into plowshares, secure the blessings of peace and harmony for ourselves and our children and their children, and generally strive to make this a better country for everyone.   They are the party that judges people not by how much money they have accrued, but by how much they have done for the commonweal.

That party is dead.  There are millions of Americans out there who would support a truly progressive replacement for it.  But are there leaders to show the way?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Ecological Eras

Before Trump. . .

After Trump. . . .

Route 66 to the Concentration Camps

While we slept, the United States became a fascist country.

This is not just the result of the presidential election. Right-wingers espousing fascist policies control both houses of the national legislature and, as soon as Neil Gorsuch is confirmed, will again control the Supreme Court.

The titular president and his string-puller, Alt-Pres. Bannon, have the power to select a record number of new federal judges, more than any administration in history. (Note: Obama had the right to fill many of these vacancies, but the Republican senate refused to consider his nominees.)

Republicans now control 32 state legislatures and the governors of 33 states are Republicans.  The office-holders at the state level are among the most right-wing, anti-environment, anti-immigrant and anti-social politicians ever to hold office in this country.

They include the likes of Sonny Borrelli, an Arizona state senator, who once punched his wife in the face not once but three times, was convicted of domestic violence, was sentenced to 10 days in jail — and served one.  In Arizona, that’s how you spell j-u-s-t-i-c-e.  Think of “Sheriff Joe.”

Borrelli has just enjoyed the greatest triumph of his political career. He sponsored legislation called  SB 1142 that has just passed the senate and will soon pass in the house.  It expands existing racketeering laws to allow police to arrest anyone involved in a protest and seize their assets, treating demonstrators like organized criminals.

The legislation would give the state of Arizona the right to arrest and prosecute and seize the assets of anyone who planned a protest and everyone who participated.  Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said, ”This is a total perversion of the RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] process, the racketeering process, and I see major Constitutional issues down the line. I don't think this is going to do anything but get us into more lawsuits."

Borrelli and his Republican cohorts allege that protests are the work of paid provocateurs.  Even people not present at protests could be prosecuted, for conspiracy,  under SB 1142.  

Borrelli’s law has the fingerprints of ALEC  (the American Legislative Exchange Council) all over it.  This is the control center for the laws and political action that have plunged the country into fascism while the citizenry slept, or fell for blatant lies and elected the liars to run things. ALEC has tons of money, given to it by Exxon Mobil, the Koch brothers, the pharmaceutical industry (PhRMA) and other corporations or their phony foundation fronts. 

ALEC dispenses this largesse to Republican state legislators, wining them and dining them at meetings where copies of “model” legislation are distributed.  Many of the puppets go back home and sponsor these bills without even reading them, and they become law, as Arizona’s SB 1142 soon will become law.  Oklahoma’s draconian laws that deny women the rights of free citizens, Utah’s anti-environment laws that would steal all the federal public land in the state . . . these and many other pieces of fascist legislation are ALEC’s gift to the people under the boot heel.

With Alt-Pres. Bannon and his lap puppet leading the way at the federal level, and states like Arizona marching in lockstep, the path to concentration camps for the rest of us is very nearly complete.

If travel you must in Arizona, be very careful what literature you carry, what bumper stickers are on your vehicle, what you say over tacos at the lunch counter.  You could be a “paid agitator.”  Sheriff Joe might be gone — some say there’s a position for him in the new national government — but his infamous jail is still there.