Saturday, January 14, 2017

What the Hell Is Going On Here?

This is the United States of Bizarrica.  The mind reels at the crescendo of craziness that assails our senses, and the most hated president-elect ever to approach the Oval Office has not yet even assumed the cloak of command.  Are they correct who assure us that truth is no more, this is the age of post-truth?  Or is truth merely in hiding, like the former British spy who is at the heart of just part of the swirl of intrigue?

Who is allied with whom?  Are the intelligence agencies allied in a Dark State conspiracy to deny the self-anointed world’s greatest businessman his tainted presidency?  If so, why did part of it (the FBI) try to destroy the candidacy of his opponent? Or if Comey didn’t do that, why are all the Democrats of the House so pissed?  Speaking of urine, what about all those memos compiled by the former MI6 agent, who now fears for his life, because after all, the Russian spook apparatus has already managed to kill not one, but two, Russian dissidents on British soil?.

Is there anyone with clean hands?  Clapper has been caught in bald-faced lies to the Congress and the American people.  Comey is at least a double-, maybe a triple-dealer.  Trump spews lies the way Old Faithful spews steam.  Clinton told Wall Street oligarchs that she speaks public truth and private truth, which are not one and the same.  Everyone knows nobody in Congress tells the truth.  The mainstream media can’t be trusted; most of them no longer acknowledge that “media” is a plural noun and requires an appropriate verb.  “Media is” indeed! "Media are," you idiots!

What is the poor, confused citizen of Bizarrica to make of all this? Besides making haste, that is, to some more sane country, which most of us couldn’t do even if we wanted to.

We can try to sort it out. The boastful grabber of pussy held what he called  a news conference, but was actually a piece of theater for the former star performer of a highly-rated TV show. He stood beside a table stacked with file folders stuffed with paper.  He had no deals, no loans, no ties to Russia, he said.  David Cay Johnston, the journalist who knows this guy better than anyone, pointed out that he said “Russia,” not “Russians,” thus distinguishing between the Russian government (Russia) and the wealthy people who actually run Russia (Russians), which is because when his businesses went bankrupt for the seventh time and the traditional banks cut off his line of credit, he got hundreds of millions of dollars in loans through Russian oligarchs.  Curious, one of the journalists who attended the news conference TV show peeked inside several of the folders on the table.  They contained blank sheets of paper.

The president-to-be’s lawyer had said the folders were full of all the documents Trump had to sign to convey power over his business empire to his sons, thus fulfilling his obligations under the conflict-of-interest laws, which he said didn’t apply to him but he was doing it anyway just to show what a really, really good guy he is.  (The lawyer' works for an international business law firm whose Moscow office was named 2016 Russian Law Firm  of the Year by a European law journal.) Even if the folders had contained real documents, said the man tasked to run the government’s non-partisan office of ethics compliance, the cockamamie arrangement the lawyer outlined wouldn’t comply with any version of ethics known to man.  Whereupon a powerful House Republican said, whoa, ethics monitor, you are out of bounds and better get over here into one of our secret torture chambers and eat yor words or you won’t even have an office of ethics compliance because we’ll take away your funding and maybe even toss you in jail and throw away the key.  This is the guy who on the very first day of the new Congress voted to do away with the office that monitors members of congress for ethics compliance, which shows what he thinks of “ethics.”

Meanwhile, before he went into hiding for fear of his life and the safety of his family, the former British spy, a Russian expert, told a U.S. journalist that he had been hired to sniff around Trump’s connections to Russia at the behest of someone representing someone seeking the Republican presidential nomination, which Donald won, whereupon someone representing Clinton said, keep on sniffing, we will now pay for it, but this former MI6 agent (who, the consensus has it, is very good at this spy stuff) soon decided that what he was finding was so important that it had to be given to people who knew how to handle such sensitive info, namely the intelligence agencies of the UK and the US.  He arranged with intermediaries to deliver his stuff to the government spooks.  But nothing came of it.  Even as the presidential election, with its own separate carnivals of crazy, careered toward election day, all the FBI seemed focused on was Clinton’s damned e-mails.  Frustrated, the MI6 guy, whose name is Steele, arranged for another intermediary to give his memos to Sen. John McCain, who once ran for president his own self, and McCain took the stuff to the FBI, in high dudgeon because here was an adversarial foreign power meddling in a free and fair election, the very heart of our democracy, and something needed to be done about that.  Now there were so many people running around Washington with copies of this stuff that it was like the old joke about the secret agent who was about to make a coded contact with another secret agent named Schmidt.  He went to the secret location where Schmidt was supposed to be, knocked on the door, and uttered the secret code phrase to the sleepy guy in pajamas who opened the door.  “Oh,” said the guy, “you don’t want me, you want Schmidt the spy.  He lives upstairs.”  

In any event, Steele, the real ex-spy, finally talked to a journalist, who wrote in a veiled way about the stuff, and one thing led to another, and then all the excrement hit the proverbial fan.  “Lies,” said the boastful grabber of pussy; “fiction,” said Russia.

There are some sideshows.  A former civil rights leader, now an esteemed member of Congress, without naming him, declared that the guy about to be sworn in as chief of state “is not a legitimate president.”  This elicited delight in some quarters, umbrage in another.  The world’s greatest businessman, soon to be president, told the former civil rights leader to mind his own district, which is a disaster, and leave real matters of governance to white guys who know how to do it.

I suppose I’ve missed some of the Big Picture, but a reeling mind can sort out only so much, especially when it inhabits an aging body for whom Social Security is an important part of income, and who depends for continued health upon Medicare  . . . ya see what I’m saying?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Oh, What Might Have Been -- But Wasn't

From the day he first stepped onto the national stage in 2004 until last night, when he began his journey back to being just another citizen, Barack Hussein Obama has been a great giver of speeches.

His farewell address in Chicago was so powerful that once again I found myself wanting to believe, wanting to wash my mind of the memories of presidential kill lists and assassinations by drone; of a Guantanamo that was never closed; of a battle for single-payer health care that was never fought; of truth-tellers imprisoned and even tortured; of dark secrets shielded from public view; of spineless attempts to compromise with uncompromising extremists in Congress; of violations of other nations’ supremacy over their own lands; of wars, wars, endless wars waged by a man who shamelessly accepted a Nobel Peace Prize; of promises unkept; of unprecedented potential unfulfilled.

Early in his presidency, I dared to compare Obama’s way with words to the writing and speaking skills of Abraham Lincoln, whose words held a nation together through a great civil war and then freed the slaves so that, one day, after many more years of tears and tribulation, a black man might ascend to the presidency.  

Lincoln, expressing his great admiration for Henry Clay, extolled Clay’s “deeply earnest and impassioned tone and manner, which can proceed only from great sincerity and a thorough conviction in the speaker of the justice and importance of his cause.” 

Barack Obama had that tone, that manner. But his “conviction to the justice and importance of his cause” faded in the light of his actions or, too often, his failure to act.  

While he admitted that the United States in fact tortured “some folks,” he refused to prosecute those who ordered, condoned or performed the torturing, suggesting that some of them might even be “patriots” and their critics “sanctimonious.”

He placed two women on the Supreme Court and they have been excellent justices, but faced with the unconstitutional obstructionism of Senate Republicans on his third nominee, he failed to exercise his powers of a recess appointment of Merrick Garland.

Holding the “most powerful office in the world” he seemed powerless against the NRA despite Sandy Hook, Aurora, Orlando.  

He urged cutting back the world’s nuclear arsenal, and yet the United States is the world’s most productive producer and seller of conventional weapons.

He led us out of a great recession but refused to try the criminals who caused it.

He brokered the Paris accords on climate change but dragged his feet on the Dakota pipeline that threatens to poison the drinking water of the Standing Rock tribe and others.

I do not denigrate the things Barack Obama did accomplish as President.  Imperfect as it is, his Affordable Care Act did improve our terrible health care system.  He did solve the so-called “Iran nuclear problem” through diplomacy rather than bloodshed.  Marriage equality.  Job creation.  Osama bin Laden.  Cuba.  He ticked them off last night with justifiable pride.

And he did so with the now-familiar eloquence that had me wanting a Great Revisionist to recast his presidency as the bright soaring success I once believed it would be.  

“Yes we can,” he concluded.  “Yes we did.”

No you didn’t.  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hoist With Their Health-Care Petard

The intelligent folks on the left — no, we did not simply vanish after Nov. 8 — know they cannot do a thing to prevent the congressional Republicans from having their way with the Affordable Care Act.  Let us hope, then, that the slavering hyenas succeed in doing their absolute worst.

Here’s why:

Obamacare, while it’s considerably better than what we had, is still a mish-mash of bad compromises and worse constructs that leaves health care in the United States far behind other countries in terms of cost, efficiency and reach.  Dr. Kidglove gave away the farm at the outset when he took single-payer off the table before anyone even sat down to talk.  Then he sold out to the big pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry, giving up the very controls on these greedy profiteers that were needed to establish a cost-effective system.  He did this to buy enough votes to get something — anything — passed in a Congress that is short on ethics and high on hot air.

Now that they control every aspect of government, the Republicans plan to utterly destroy the ACA in four steps: (1) Take the filibuster weapon out of the hands of Senate Democrats. (2) Use a process called reconciliation to speed passage of a bill that gits every worthwhile provision of the existing law. (3) Destroy the shreds that remain of Obamacare through executive action by the man who won the electoral college but not the election.  (4) Find and pass a replacement form of health care.

With the most important step left till last, the inevitable result will be chaos and disaster for millions of Americans.  Elderly and chronically ill Americans in rural states who voted in the certainty that the “good businessman” would never let them go without health care will awaken one day — quite soon, because of the fast-track reconciliation process — to find that instead of sort-of OK health care, they have none at all.

Meanwhile, as even a big profiteering health insurance company has discovered through its  research, none of the possible replacements the Republicans have posited will work.  Either they will increase the deficit, or fail to cover as many people as Obamacare covers, or otherwise wreak havoc on the people.  

As more and more millions of Americans realize that they can no longer afford to be sick or need surgery, the political tide that gave the Republicans control of government will turn against them.  Lies about health care have become a powerful force in American politics.  The new truth will be far more powerful — powerful enough to give the Democrats control of congress in  the me mid-term elections.  

Progressives in both houses should be working now to fashion the strongest possible single-payer health care bill, one that draws on the best of the Canadian system and the best of Medicare (which the Republicans intend to squeeze dry by cutting benefits, thus antagonizing a huge cohort that otherwise would have been unaffected by the assault on the ACA). Like the hideously mis-named USA Patriot Act, the single-payer bill should be honed, polished and printed, ready to rush into the hands of a new Congress as soon as it is sworn in in December of 2018. A catchy title would help, before the Republicans can come up with a derisive one.

The new bill should be clear and simple, unlike the easily-misinterpreted language of the ACA,  and loaded with hot-button phrases that will appeal to the simple folk of Appalachia, the rust belt and other pockets of the deceived who voted against their own interests in the presidential election. It should define “working America’s right to decent health care,”  quick and easy medicine for sick babies when they need it with no red tape, government guarantees on the best prices for new and needed medication.

The congressional Democrats, and the party at large, will have to come to its senses and return to its roots as the party of working America in order to take advantage of this opportunity.  Is that even possible?  Perhaps Will Rogers gave us the answer many years ago,

“I am a member of no organized political party,” he said.  “I’m a Democrat.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Smart. Government by Tweet

How apt!  How absolutely perfect!  How swell!!

Now that the Republicans control every branch of government, their very first act is . . . . 

. . . to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics. (*)

Enough of this ethics shit!  Who needs it?  It’s just another way of saying “political correctness” and we all know the voters gave us a mandate to do away with it, right?

They have a president-to-be who won the electoral college but not the election.  They have a crew of billionaires getting ready to run agencies they have sought for years to destroy, the way the House destroyed ethics last night.

The fate of the nation is in the hands of destroyers.

Besides ethics, their targets include:

Education.  The billionaire named to run the Department of Education is dedicated to the destruction of public schools and forcing kids into things called charter schools, which are taxpayer-funded brainwash centers.  As the secretary-designate herself has said, these will be schools that teach God’s will.  Get ready for a generation of kids that thinks deductive reasoning is a tax strategy and square root is a genetically modified plant, but that will graduate from high school sing-songing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, ‘cause the Bible tells me so.”

Health Care.  C'mon, if you got health you don't need care, right?  Obamacare -- which is named for a black person, after all -- is outta here.  Why should we  pay for services for them who are too damned lazy to work for things like we do, right? For the rest of us, what will replace what we've got now?  The Pussy-Grabber will take care of that, rust him.  He is very smart.

The Environment.  Those silly rules that try to keep the air safe to breathe, the water safe to drink, the food safe to eat and the earth a suitable habitat for human and other forms of life . . . well, they are a nuisance for businessmen, of which of course the Pussy-Grabber is the most supreme one ever to hatch a deal. They guy who loved to sue the Environmental Protection Agency now gets to dismantle it.

Women’s Rights.  Back to barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, Baby, and get your pussy grabbed on the way.  Unless, of course, you have a billion dollars or so in your bank account, in which case you can have a government agency to run.  Abortion?  Don’t even think about.  Equal pay for equal work?  Are you out of your mind?  Roe v. Wade?  It’s like ethics.  Who needs it?

Consumer Protection. Isn’t that something invented by that Pocahontas bitch in the Senate?  You gotta be kidding!  What’s good for Wall Street is good for America, which is about to become great again, if you just get the damned government out of the way, which of course the greatest businessman ever to swindle a contractor will take care of pronto beginning on Jan. 20.

Diplomacy. Whaddafuck is “diplomacy” except another kind of “political correctness?”  How many times do we gotta tell you, the voters gave us a mandate  to end that “correctness” shit.  We will deal with the world by tweet. Goddam Chinks give us any lip, the P-G will tweet their yellow asses into oblivion, is what he’ll by gawd do. Somebody try to mess with Pal Bibi and we’ll nuke the bastards.  Got that?

Laws. We got a bunch of bad ones, which are just another way of saying “ethics” or “political correctness.”  Bigly bad. The P-G will repeal them.  From then on, the P-G will simply tweet new laws whenever he thinks they are necessary, most of which will apply to the stupid 99 per cent but not to his cronies, who are very smart.

Intelligence.  Since the P-G is already very smart, probably the smartest person on earth, he cannot waste time being briefed by “intelligence” agencies.  Who needs ‘em? They’re fired!  

National Parks, Monuments, Forests and public lands.  Way it is now, just about anyone can go in there with their silly tents and backpacks and fishin’ ’poles, which of course gets in the way of mining machinery, drilling rigs and big trucks.  Laws will be tweeted to give all so-called public lands over to the more responsible stewardship of corporations, especially corporations who cut favorable deals with you-know-who.

Welcome (with a nod to Paul Krugman) to Trumpistan!

(*)  A folly they promptly backed away from when the P-G had a twitfit.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Pussy-Grabber Needs Kissinger

Jim Naughton of the New York Times was in the White House interviewing President Nixon’s press secretary, Ron Ziegler, for a Sunday magazine article.

Ziegler, a former Disneyland barker, was boasting about the new, high-tech video communications system that had recently been installed.  “You want a comment from someone in the administration, I can get it in an instant,” Ziegler said.  “Say you want a comment from Kissinger,” (then the biggest star in the cast), “I just press this button . . . .” The TV screen lit up and an image appeared of a pin-striped knee. “Hello Henry, Ron Ziegler here.  I hope we’re not bothering you but. . .”

A familiar, Teutonic-accented voice growled, “You ARE, Ron.” Click! The screen went dark.

Henry Kissinger exuded power.  No wonder the soon-to-be President likes him.  They share not just a love of power but also an eye for attractive women and an affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Even though he’s 93, Kissinger is said to be designated for a role in the new administration as a foreign policy advisor and intermediary with Putin’s Russia.

Whereas the Pussy-Grabber is utterly ignorant of the complexities of modern foreign policy and diplomatic procedure, Kissinger was one of its slickest operators.  For good or bad, he influenced the international tides.  He commanded respect.

He orchestrated acts of criminality, including assassination.  Salvador Allende, as the democratically-elected president of Chile, offended Washington by acting in the interests of his people rather than the country’s oligarchs and their  pals in corporate America.  Kissinger ordered the CIA to take him out.  In September of 1973 a CIA-instigated military coup ousted Allende, who wound up dead.  Shot himself with an assault rifle, the junta said. Or maybe Santa Claus did it. In any event, the junta put General Augusto Pinochet in charge of the country, and the new dictator rounded up thousands of Allende supporters to be tortured and murdered.  

This sort of thing, of course, has been commonplace in American foreign policy, but Kissinger was arguably better at it than most American officials. Covered his tracks better.

Kissinger had inside knowledge of the quid pro quo that was secretly negotiated with Boris Yeltsin in 1993 when the Russian leader agreed to let Poland join NATO.  One popular version holds that the U.S.agreed to put Russia itself in line for NATO membership.  Another version says there was simply a firm verbal commitment that NATO would never expand further east, towards Russia’s border. Kissinger personally shot down the possibility of putting Russia into NATO when the Clinton administration was considering it in 1994. But he almost certainly would have approved a vow of no further eastward expansion of NATO. Subtly at first, then blatantly, the administrations of  Bush II and Obama violated that vow.

Against that backdrop, Kissinger in a recent interview publicly exonerated Russia from blame for the present-day crisis over Ukraine. He did not directly acknowledge that the United States had, as it did in Chile, orchestrated the coup d’etat that forced Ukraine’s democratically-elected president out of office. But Kissinger nonetheless dismissed western outrage at Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea. Given that peninsula’s longtime historic ties to Russia, he said, “the annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest. It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia” (as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others  had contended).

Kissinger said that until the U.S. ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, Putin had no interest in fomenting trouble in Ukraine. He told his interviewer: “Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn’t make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine.”

Then Kissinger offered a hint of the sort of advice he would give to the incoming president:”If a conflict is avoidable, on a basis reflecting morality and security, one should try to avoid it. We have to remember that Russia is an important part of the international system, and therefore useful in solving all sorts of other crises, for example in the agreement on nuclear proliferation with Iran or over Syria. This has to have preference over a tactical escalation in a specific case.”

In putting together an administration lacking in wisdom or morality, including a Secretary of State nominee whose only knowledge of world affairs is where the oil is and where there’s money to be made, the Pussy-Grabber would be wise to seek the counsel of Henry Kissinger on matters of global diplomacy.

On Russia, at least, the man in pinstripes knows which buttons to push and when to push them. Just ask Ron Ziegler.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Time to Be a Real President

The end game of the Obama presidency, like the 95 months that preceded it, is a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Kudos for the new national monuments, which add new layers of protection for unique and sacred public lands in Utah and Nevada.

Special applause for finally standing up to the criminal Netanyahu regime of Israel by refusing to veto the U.N. security council resolution condemning the illegal and inhumane settlements in Palestine. 

It will be difficult if not impossible for the Pussy Grabber to reverse these actions.

But such commendable actions have to be weighed against his legacy of death-by-drone lists that include American citizens, and unprecedented numbers of penal actions against whistle-blowers and journalists who expose dirty secrets.  These establish precedents for the next president to wield as weapons of dictatorship.

And then there’s the “Russian hacking” fiasco.  His extraordinary action of expelling 35 Russian diplomats and imposing new so-called “sanctions” against Russian individuals or organizations would suggest that he has iron-clad proof of the allegations of “malicious cyber activity and harassment.”

If such proof exists, the national interest demands that he make it public now, before he leaves office.  The evidence offered up to now has been flimsy, none moreso than the report that was offered as justification for the latest action.

The issuing agency, the Department of Homeland Security, acknowledged as much with the following disclaimer:

“This report is provided ‘as is’ for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.”

Huh?  C’mon man!

Even if there is real proof of the Russian hacking, and even if Obama makes it public, as he should, the rest of the world will snigger at American hypocrisy for taking such umbrage.  It has been United States policy for decades to do exactly what it now accuses Russia of doing.  Let us count the countries in which the U.S. has interfered with democratic elections:

Greece, Turkey, Italy, France, Portugal, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, Ukraine, Russia (Yeltsin’s 1995-96 campaign), Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine, Cyprus, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Yemen, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Congo. Haiti, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua,  Venezuela, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina.

Vladimir Putin has thumbed his nose at the Obama administration’s hysteria by rejecting his foreign minister’s recommendation to respond in kind to the expulsion of Russian diplomats, saying grandly that the children of U.S.diplomats are cordially invited to the state celebration of the New Year’s holiday in Russia.

It is time, President Obama, to come clean.  If you have proof of your allegations, let the people of the United States and of the world see it.

Meanwhile, there are other important tasks you can perform before leaving office, tasks that would embellish your motley legacy. 

One is to issue legal protections, by executive order, of all federal employees from witch hunts such as those the Pussy Grabber’s transition team have attempted against climate scientists and proponents of gay and transgender rights.

And most important, Mr. President, make this the signature act of your final days in office: Make Merrick Garland a Supreme Court justice.  Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the President power to fill any vacancy during the recess of the Senate. Justice William Brennan began his Supreme Court tenure with a recess appointment in 1956. The Constitution requires the Senate to receive judicial appointments and either reject or consent to them.  In a monumental act of criminal nonfeasance, the Republican Senate has done nothing.  So you are legally entitled on Jan. 2 to fill the Supreme Court vacancy by executive action.  Do it.  By law such an appointment would last at least until December of 2017, the end of the first session of the 115th Congress.  We must have a full court of nine justices to deal with the many unprecedented issues that will surely arise after the Pussy-Grabber takes office.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

In the Shadow of the Bears Ears

Dear Grandkids and Great-Grandkids:

When you crest Cedar Mesa via the Moki Dugway. the only way to go is straight ahead, toward the Bears Ears.  They’re the top o’ the world in this part of southern Utah.

Some day you will come this way.  There’s a good chance it will still be worth the trip when you come.  This is so because yesterday, President Obama designated a new national monument, named for the Bears Ears, which stand roughly at the center of the million-acre monument.

All the usual bad guys — the pols, the land-raping miners and drillers, the off-road vandals, the gun-toting anti-feds — fought the thing tooth and nail.  The new regime will try to undo this but I’m guessing they’ll fail.

I hope so, because you and the generations that follow have a right to explore its wonders, if you choose  (and I hope you will), or just to know it’s there, part of the nearest thing we’ve got to real wilderness.  The coalition of Native Americans, environmental activists and natural scientists who urged Obama to create the monument cited its unequaled scenic beauty; its ancient ruins, petroglyphs and artifacts; its historical significance; and its sacred sites in the religions of the tribes. All of this, of course, is magnificent beyond words, But there is more . . .

The road west from Bluff Takes you up and over Comb Ridge (See recent post, “The Auctioning of Paradise”) and then down into Valley of the Gods.  You enter, and you never want to leave.  Once while photographing the hen and rooster rock formations we saw a deer approaching, unafraid.  Saxon, who usually chased such creatures, perhaps as smitten by the magic of the place as we were, invited it to play.  It stared curiously, as if considering the idea, but then wandered away.

You exit Valley of the Gods onto Utah 261 and turn north toward the sheer cliff face of Cedar Mesa.  You travel — slowly and carefully — from the valley floor to the top of the Mesa via the Dugway, an unpaved series of tight switchbacks originally built for hauling ore from a mine on the mesa to a refinery near Mexican Hat. Atop the mesa, you can choose any of a dozen jeep tracks and dirt roads into a wonderland of pinon forest, wildlife, cliff-dweller ruins and ancient artifacts.  Or you can stay on the main road to Natural Bridges National Monument.  The jeep track to the Bears Ears veers right off the road to Natural Bridges. The first time we went there the campground was full so we went to the overflow camping area at the intersection of Highways 261 and 95. There we had our first taste of Navajo fry bread courtesy of friendly camping neighbors.

To the east, a dirt road runs between 95 and 163, parallel to Comb Ridge. It takes you into Butler Wash where we camped in a copse of cottonwoods and used a brand-new GPS to find our very own Anasazi outbuilding, a granary built into the cliffside. Previous explorers had made a flat rock into an altar for the display of potsherds, arrowheads and other items protected by the same Antiquities Act that allowed the President to create the new Bears Ears monument.  Years later, when my metal replacement hip had healed, we came back here to test it on a slickrock hike, and heal our souls, as well,  at the foot of Comb Ridge.

North of here, in the high country overlooking Canyonlands National Park, is Sandy’s last campsite. Sandy, a spaniel, was old and ailing when we camped on a ledge beneath Antelope Rock, overlooking a wild and beautiful canyon ablaze with fall wildflowers.  In this part of the new monument is Windwhistle Campground, where on a crisp morning we first heard the haunting sounds of an expert Navajo flute player, a direct heir to Kokopelli.  Here we first learned to walk like Spiderman up sheer slopes of slickrock.  Here we made our famous breakfast slumgullion for half a dozen fellow hikers.  Or, come to think, was that the campsite in the  Abajos?  That was the day when Saxon “helped” a team of cowboys round up their cattle to take them to lower elevations before winter set in.

We’ve trod these canyons and forests, these mountains and mesas, these byways and trails, first with Sandy, then with Saxon, now with Brandi, each, in his own time, the perfect trail and camping companion.  All of these places, all of these memories, are part of the new national monument, under a new umbrella of protection from those who would profit by abusing it, by stealing from it.

A new regime is determined to take it away from you.  Don’t let them.  Come, drive the Moki, walk the mesa top, camp in the shadow of the Bears Ears. hear the flute in the whistle of the wind, ponder the message of the rock art, look for the deer in the shadow of the rock spires . . . This is your legacy, if you can keep it.

The Grandgeezer  

Monday, December 26, 2016

We Are Our Only Hope

We outnumber the Trumpistas by more than three million, but that’s scant comfort in a place where the Other Side has all the guns, all the money and no shame.

As the country’s most important writer, Chris Hedges, put it in his Christmas essay, all we have is each other.

Clasp hands, then, with the boycotters.  My daughter Laura is one of them.  “All they know is greed,” she said, “the only thing they understand is money.  So we should hit them where it hurts.  Boycott the corporations, the banks and fossil fuel companies, Big Agribusiness, Big Everything — quit buying their goods and services.  Massive boycotts would wake them up.”  The revenge of the 99% against the 1%.  Do it, say I.

Pledge allegiance to the resisters.  “Don’t let Trump get away with anything!” writes Robert Koehler of PeaceVoice. “Fight every alt-right and nutcase appointment he tries to make, every racist or reckless policy he tries to implement. Above all, don’t let him shift the paradigm of normal.” But the Other Side is in the Rapture of Power and hears not the voices of resistance. Koehler, citing Standing Rock, says, “for some reason the national or perhaps global moment was ripe for it to be something else. The struggle for water rights, for the sanctity of the land, for a wounded people’s dignity, sent a tremor through the whole country. Something sacred — to use a risky, old-fashioned word — had been violated. And maybe we’re no longer simply Consumer America, using up our resources, destroying our rivers, clotting our veins, to consequences born only by the racially and culturally marginalized. We used to be, but this is changing. . .I pledge allegiance to the new world that is coming into being.”

Perhaps the tragic truth of Nov. 8 has at last caused the beginning of an awakening of the betrayed millions.  Perhaps, like Koehler, they have begun to ask if we really want to be “the United States of War . . .the United States of Prisons . . .the United States of Poverty and Infrastructure Decay and Contaminated Water.”  

Whither now this collective awakening to what has happened to us?  Hedges: “Students were no longer taught how to think, but what to think. Civic education died. A grotesque kind of illiteracy—one exemplified by Trump—was celebrated. Success became solely about amassing wealth. The cult of the self, the essence of corporatism, became paramount.”

Ellen Schrecker, who has written the definitive historyies of that ugly epoch we call the McCarthy era, told Hedges, “There is an attack on the American mind.”  Trump, she said, “is the product of 40 years of dumbing down” the American people.

How shall we rebel?

Hedges: “We must begin again. Any hope for a restoration of civil society will come from small, local groups and community organizations. They will begin with the mundane tasks of holding back the expansion of charter schools, enforcing environmental regulations, building farmers markets, fighting for the minimum wage, giving sanctuary to undocumented workers, protesting hate crimes and electing people to local offices who will seek to mitigate the excesses of the state.

“We must not become preoccupied with the short-term effects of resistance. Failure is inevitable for many of us. Tyrants have silenced voices of conscience in the past. They will do so again. We will endure by holding fast to our integrity, by building community and by spawning new institutions in the midst of the wreckage. We will sustain each other. Perhaps enough of us will endure to begin again.”

We have the advantage in numbers, in righteousness, in veracity, in intellect.  Let us recruit, as we did in former times, the best and the brightest among us, the young, the idealistic, the energetic, and bid them run for elective office — for the school board, the town council, the county commission.  Let us speak on their behalf, ring doorbells, print leaflets, chip in pennies to buy ads, walk the byways, get them elected.  

I know  a woman who has twice sought office and twice lost.  She plans to run for another local office next year.  “I don’t want to be a politician who won an election,” she told me.  “I want to be a public servant.”

Let us find another three million like her, and begin the revolution by putting them in local office. It is our only hope.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Promising Survival Strategy

In the great post-election rush to find survival strategies, I think I’m onto something: Animal videos.  Funny animal videos.

The realization came to me when I stumbled across the recent video from the Toronto Zoo of a giant panda playing with a snowman.  When the panda did a pratfall after beheading the snowman, I laughed out loud for the first time since Nov, 8.

That humor is an effective weapon against pain and depression has been known for some time.  Norman Cousins, who dealt with his painful terminal illness by watching Marx Brothers movies, was a pioneer of the movement.

It would be fitting, then, for a majority of Americans to adopt his strategy as we face a future filled with pain and depression.  For Cousins was everything the Pussy Grabber and his Team of Reptiles are not: literate, intelligent, compassionate, peace-loving, advocate of nuclear disarmament, generous and kind to others, a humanist. “Life is an adventure in forgiveness,” he famously said.

While Cousins was partial to the Marxes, he recognized that “ten minutes of genuine belly laughter” however achieved had the effect of benign anesthesia.

Just what we need.  My preference for funny animal videos is based upon vast research, a survey of two friends who suffer chronic severe pain.  One, a retired lawyer, has bouts of gout.  He gets relief from petting his dog, Boots, who has learned to recognize his symptoms and offers herself up for stroking and affection.  She also understands that if she can make him laugh, it counts double,  She has mastered the art of slapstick, deliberately flubbing tricks she can do perfectly well.  Works wonders.  Another friend, suffering from arthritis pain, has built a library of funny animal videos from You Tube.  “Better than meloxicam,” she says.

A long, long time ago, my father, an avid photographer, made a movie of me as a toddler,  playing in a sandbox with a new puppy.  I was building primitive sand structures.  As I nearly finished one, puppy would dash across the yard and jump into the sandbox, destroying my sand structure.  I would push puppy out of the box, build a new thing, and puppy would repeat his dash, jump and destroy act. We repeated this several times.  Finally I took pail and shovel, climbed out of the sandbox, leaving it to puppy, and began digging in the dirt.  To this day, that old movie brings a smile or chuckle, and that’s a start.

For belly laughs, there’s the panda bear and the snowman.  A sure-fire LOL is the video of the puppy chasing his own  leash around a mulberry bush.  Puppy videos are great for belly laughs.  Clips of the “Puppy Bowl,” a TV staple around the time of the Super Bowl football game, will make you forget that after a year or so of the new regime, you won’t be able to afford to be sick any more.

Dogs are infinitely creative in the ways they play together.  Any motion picture record of canine playtime can be worth a laugh.  My late companion Saxon had a very intelligent Australian shepherd playmate he loved to romp with in a field near our house in Pennsylvania.  Saxon had invented a version of “stick” and, because it was his game, he was the undefeated champion at it in the doggy park. But Tess, his smart girlfriend, picked up the game in a trice and always won against Saxon, often by tricks that were hilarious, especially on the video replays.

There is an endless supply of funny animal videos, thanks to modern video technology.  Elephant videos, bear videos, koala videos, squirrel videos, cat videos (I am not especially keen on these), prairie dog videos, dog-with-other-species videos.  Endless.

The Pussy-Grabber is an ugly, unfunny human being.  On the other hand, even ugly dogs can be funny and lovable.  

Cancel the newspaper and magazine subscriptions!  Ignore everything that purports to be “news” on TV.  Turn off the radio except for the classical music station and re-runs of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!” Bring on those funny, furry doggies and beasties!

The country may not survive the next four years, but I will.  LOL!

PS -- I lied about not laughing since Nov. 8.  Whenever I'm "too busy" with the depressing news of the day, Brandi tries to play ball with himself.  It cracks me up every time. You're going to love the video!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Savvy v. The Kakistocracy

Here we are, 24 hours from the Electoral College vote, and the electors who requested an intelligence briefing on the hacking assertions are still in the dark, along with the rest of us.

Odds are we’ll stay there.  It appears that whoever decided to throw the manure at the barn door — Obama?  Clapper?  Panetta? — didn’t really care if it stuck.

John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent and a truth-teller who did time for his courage and honesty, recently called the Russian hacking story “a red herring.”  Like the electors — 70 of them?  56? whatever.— he wants to see some evidence.  He said to an interviewer:

Are the Russian being accused of having hacked in the voting machines to steal the election? I’ve not seen that yet. Have they been accused of hacking emails? Yes, but if so, what was the fallout? I mean, this is something that the big powers do to each other all the time, and God knows the United States has a very long history, a rich history of interfering in the elections of other countries. I’m not really sure what the outrage is. I’m not sure why we should really care. This is just something that the KGB does to the United States and that the CIA does to the Russians, and it’s just one of those dirty little poorly kept secrets and it has been for decades. 

A group of six former intelligence officials, including the impeccably reliable Ray McGovern, signed an open letter that declared: “It remains something of a mystery why the media is being fed strange stories about hacking that have no basis in fact. In sum, given what we know of NSA’s existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone – Russian or not – attempting to interfere in a U.S. election by hacking.

In the real world, pledged electors are not likely to break with tradition tomorrow and throw the election into the House of Representatives.  With or without an intelligence briefing, they could do so as an act of conscience and be within the bounds of the Constitution.  But it won’t happen.  Despite his ethical, intellectual and personal unfitness for the office, the Kakistocrat will be designated president-elect of the United States tomorrow.

In a long lifetime on this planet, I never dreamed that our democratic process could ever anoint such a person to lead the country.  But it has happened, and we the people have allowed it to happen.

Now we will pay the price of our stupidity. The questions are: Can pockets of decency, civility and humanity survived the new holocaust?  Will it be possible some day to begin evicting the Kakistocrats from the national government?  Can a new left emerge from the ashes of our former democratic republic? Can people of honesty, vision and social altruism retake the reins of government?

The outlook is not sanguine, especially if one listens closely to the blood lust at the Pussy-Grabber’s “victory” rallies in states that he won.

But the sifters of election statistics say that Americans under 40 did not vote for the president-elect.  As older voters, who did support him, die off, and younger voters become the majority, perhaps things will change.  A young voter in Hawaii, who sniffed out many a falsehood in fake news items before they became staples of the internet, assures me that he is not unique among his generation in being able to smell a rat where one lurks in cyberspace.

“We’re savvy, Gramps.” he said. I hope he’s right.  We need savvy.  Perhaps, just perhaps, they will find a way to save this country from itself.