Sunday, February 21, 2016


There are nightmares. . .

You can’t swim, your arms won’t move, you are clinging to a bit of flotsam in a fast-flowing river, carried toward a water fall . . .

. . . and nightmares. . .

The plane’s  pilot has died of a heart attack, you are speeding toward the side of a mountain, your seat-belt buckle is jammed . . .

. . . and nightmares . . .

You are running from a hideous monster when your feet become mired in quicksand . . .

. . .and nightmares . . .

It is election day, 2016, and the choices on the presidential ballot are Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R).

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Whither SCOTUS, Absent the Great Taker?

A small spaceship landed on the National Mall three or four years ago.  A dyslexic Martian emerged and flagged down passers-by.  “Lead me to your taker,” he said.  They led him to Antonin Scalia’s office in the Supreme court building.

Scalia died as he liked to live — comped.  There is no code of ethics for SCOTUS justices, who have lifetime appointments.

With Scalia’s death while a free guest at a luxury ranch in Texas, President Obama is required by the Constitution to nominate a successor.  The Senate is required by the Constitution to vote on confirming that nominee.

Obama has promised to fulfill his Constitutional role with due diligence.  The Republicans in the Senate are threatening to refuse to do their duty.  Many of these Republicans were in the Senate when Ronald Reagan nominated a Supreme Court justice (Kennedy) in the last year of his presidency.  Their position today is 180 degrees from their position when Reagan was a lame duck president. 

But hypocrisy is par for the Republican course, just as taking freebies was par for Justice Scalia’s course even when his taking represented a clear conflict of interest.

It is impossible to overstate the damage Scalia did to the fragile notion of American democracy during his tenure on the high court.  Probably his most evil legacy is Citizens United, the ruling that engraved in stone the myth of corporate personhood and enabled Big Business and Banking to buy the United States government, lock, stock and loophole.Through his opinions and influence on his fellow conservative members of the court, he foisted on the American people extremist views of presidential power, constitutional originalism and right-wing Catholicism as personified in the secret society Opus Dei, of which he was a proud member.  

Once, Americans of the patriotic left would have rejoiced in the opportunity for a Democratic president to appoint the successor to the intellectual leader of the Supreme Court’s conservatives.  Now, alas, his nominee must face the confirmation procedure in a Senate with 47 members who committed treason by openly trying to undermine the official diplomacy of the head of state.

Even if the Republican obstructionists back down from their vow to refuse even to consider Obama’s nominee, it would take a small miracle to move the nominee through the vetting process of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Then, at least five Republicans would have to cross party lines to vote for confirmation.  I count nine Republicans who, in my opinion, possibly might have the courage, integrity and intellect to weigh a nominee’s qualifications with fairness.  Thus, if the matter gets that far, at least five of them might conceivably find in favor of whomever the President presents to them.  

There are more “ifs” in this scenario than there are lies on the Republican presidential debate stage. But it could happen.

Vice President Biden, among many others, says it is not likely that Obama will go out shopping for the most liberal jurist he can find when choosing a nominee.  The Obama court, if it came to be at all, would not be as reliably liberal as the Roberts court has been reliably conservative. 

But it would almost certainly have a more ethical justice than Scalia the mastertaker, and it would surely have more judicial probity than the blatantly political court he so powerfully influenced.

Perhaps it would even have the wisdom to revisit Citizens United and decide that, no, Exxon-Mobil is not a “person.”

Friday, February 12, 2016

Next Malheur Fight: In the Courtroom

Now that the last of the Christo-fascist jingoes has left the Malheur National Wildlife refuge in Oregon, the feds should make a fast and thorough inventory of the damage done there and then use every facet of the law to collect indemnity from them.

Like the Texas indictment of the nutsos who put together the fradulent video of Planned Parenthood leaders, extracting full payment for damages from the so-called “occupiers” would amount to poetic justice.  Most of our collection laws were crafted to empower banks, corporations, predatory lenders and other legalized thieves to squeeze every last nickel of filthy lucre out of the beaten-down public.  How gratifying it would be to use them to recoup what the public lost in the “occupation” of land that belongs to the public — to you and me.

Damage to or theft of native American artifacts, illegal roads and fences, burned or degraded documents, lost usage days to would-be visitors, lost work-time for refuge employees — all of these and other costs to the public should be accounted for and collected,  by garnishment, impoundment of assets, fines and all the other legal means collection agents use in their harassment of vulnerable consumers.

The depredations of the jingoes during the 40 days of Malheur can be assigned a fair market value in dollars.  What cannot be measured is its more insidious, long-term damage in fueling the vast right-wing conspiracy to place federal public land in the hands of state government, making it easier for extraction industries and other polluting profiteers to get their greedy hands on it, and shovels under it.

The Koch Brothers’ massive virus, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) , is on the case.  ALEC wrote and engineered the passage of the Transfer of Public Lands Act in Utah in 2012.  It required transfer of vast tracts of our land — yours and mine — to the state by 2015.  This did not take place, of course, because the United States Constitution clearly states that when federal and state laws conflict, the federal statute must prevail.

Right-wing state legislators  introduced 36 ALEC land-grab  laws in western states in the first six months of 2015.  According to the Center for Western Priorities, only six of these passed. Meanwhile, Koch money and ALEC resources are funneling into a complex web of court cases on behalf of anti-government whackos like Cliven Bundy.

Recently, the Koch octopus engaged a high-powered law firm to research new, untried arguments for taking our land — yours and mine — away from us and the agencies (like the BLM, National Park Service etc.) that manage them on our behalf.  

These people are smart and unprincipled.  They know that the new ploys aren’t likely to fly in the  appellate courts of the West, especially the Ninth Circuit.  They’re trying now to plot a way to fast-track a land-grab case to the Supreme court, where they know they can count on a 5-4 majority.

Meanwhile, the Bundy gang and all the defendants in the Oregon mutiny are assured of Koch money and resources for their legal fees. Reimbursing us for their shenanigans there would be chump change now.

The Battle of Malheur Refuge isn’t over.  In fact, it has just begun.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pro Gun, Anti Kenyan: God Is on Their Side

Gun-toting Florida yahoos killed two people and wounded ten others in an Orlando nightclub the other night but, hey,  Second Amendment! Second Amendment!

This happened barely a week after similarly-protected patriots gunned down a fellow patron and wounded seven others at a strip club in Tampa.  Second Amendment! Second Amendment! Right to bear arms! 

This is Florida, after all, the state that made George W. Bush the President of the United States.

Florida.  Where you tote ungrammatical signs to a hospital campus and stomp and hoot and holler to keep on life support a brain-dead woman whose husband wants only to end the misery. Life is sacred — until you go out to a nekkid lady club and shoot some innocent beer-swilling lecher at the bar.

Red-neck Florida is Trumpland.  Rubioland.  Marco doesn’t know the difference between a sunni and a shiite but he wants to make our foreign policy for the Middle East.

At the New Hampshire theater of the absurd for the Republican clowns, Rubio said,  "We should be putting people into Guantanamo, not emptying it out." Not to be outdone, Donald Trump said: “"I would bring back waterboarding, and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding." Ted Cruz said waterboarding ain’t torture but he didn’t think that he, as president, would “bring it back.”  Brother Bush, another gift of Florida to American public life, said  "The next president of the United States is gonna have to get the United States back in the game, and if a preemptive strike is necessary to keep us safe, then we should do it." For starters, he said, let’s bomb North Korea.

Even in New Hampshire, there are people who actually applaud such contemptible nonsense.  Ignorance is not confined to warm states.

The GOP candidates pretty much agree that it’s bad for millions of low-income Americans to have access to affordable health care, particularly if that access results from action by a black president.  They agree that immigrants are bad, especially Muslims and brown people from south of the border. But John Kasich thinks it would be bad to engage in massive deportation, as Trump would,  because that would “break up families.”  And because families are important, the clowns also pretty much agree that you shouldn’t go letting queers get married.  Ted Cruz says that makes God really really angry. All of the candidates are good pals with God.  Trump claims a firm friendship with The Almighty even if he can’t quote accurately from the Bible.  

They might dot their i’s or cross their t’s a bit differently, but they’re absolutely united on one thing: Americans have a Constitutional right to their by gawd guns!  Second Amendment! Second Amendment!  So what if some yahoo shoots up a nekkid lady bar every now and then?  Who cares how many hoody-garbed, Skittles-eating black dudes get what they deserve? But what about all the school shootings?  

They’re Obama’s fault, of course.  Damned Kenyan got no bidness in the White House, that’s for sure.

Friday, February 5, 2016

THIS Is Foreign Policy Expertise?

Frankly, m’dear, I’m damned sick and tired of the cliches the TV clowns and print propagandists toss at me during this political madness.

On one of the most recent entertainments, these fools told me, Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State, displayed her “command” of foreign policy at the expense of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her opponent for the Democratic nomination for president.

Let us look, for a few fleeting moments, at her command of foreign policy and its consequences — for after all, executive decisions do have consequences:

As Secretary, she told a round-table of corporate executives “It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.”  Even five years ago, her “business opportunity” — she supported George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the worst foreign policy decision in american history — had cost 4,500 Americans and more than a million Iraqis their lives.  Men, women, children — lots of children — it mattered not to her.  It was a “business opportunity.”  

She led the campaign for forcible regime change in Libya, despite opposition by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Responding to the gruesome sodomizing of Muammar Gaddafi with a bayonet, Clinton laughed and said, “We came, we saw, he died.”  Hilarious.)

Our calamitous policies in Iraq and Libya escalated the rise of Islamic State and expanded the conflict in the Middle East. Now, the Obama administration is reportedly changing the rules of engagement to allow more civilian casualties in the “war” against Islamic State. A senior military official predicts that “you’ll see a little more willingness to tolerate civilian casualties in the interest of making progress” even though the Geneva Conventions  explicitly prohibit the disproportionate killing of civilians. Clinton has promised to escalate the wars in Syria and Iraq, including a no-fly zone in Syria. Since Islamic State doesn’t have an air force, her no-fly zone is likely to producte heightened tensions through incidents involving Russian planes flying over Syria. Taking her election tough-talk further, on a recent television appearance she  declared, “We have to fight in the air, fight on the ground and fight them on the Internet.” 

With an eye toward the campaign against a war-hawk Republican, Clinton dismisses Sanders as a foreign policy naif, whereas she is proud of her foot on the accelerator of our failed policy of endless war.

She is, in fact, proud of results like these:

Afghanistan: Her High Hawkishness has created  millions of refugees for the rest of the world to worry about. More than 220,000 Afghans have died died since the 2001 U.S. invasion. American taxpayers have paid  more than $700 billion for this, not counting along-term medical bill that could run as high as $2 trillion.

Libya: About 30,000 people died and another 50,000 were wounded in Hillary’s intervention and civil war. Hundreds of thousands more are refugees. Our initial cost was $1.1 billion but he fighting continues. Another billion in tangential and longer-term costs is likely.

Ukraine: The numbers: 8,000,dead, 18,000  wounded. Hillary’s thinly-veiled coup d’etat to oust the pro-Russian, admittedly corrupt but democratically elected government has left a country riven, its people starving, and a NATO-Russo conflict moving the world 20 degrees closer to nuclear war than it was before she meddled. 

Yemen: Civilian casualties: more than 6,000 dead and and another 27,000 wounded. Ten million Yeminis don’t have enough to eat, and 13 million have no access to clean water. Yemen is highly dependent on imported food, but a U.S.-Saudi blockade has choked off most imports. The war is ongoing.

Iraq: Beyond the million dead in our 2003 invasion, more than 2 million have fled the country and another 2 million are internally displaced. The cost to U.S. taxpayers of the action Hillary enthusiastically voted for is now more than $1 trillion, but it may rise to $4 trillion once all the long-term medical costs are added in. And the war isn’t over: its latest incarnation is bloody conflict with the Islamic State, which emerged from the Sunni insurgency against the U.S.-installed government.

Syria: More than 250,000 have died in the war, and half the country’s population has been displaced — including four million Syrian refugees abroad. The country’s major cities have been ravaged. Like the others, Hillary means to prolong this one as long as the military-industrial complex that funds her campaign continues to profit from it.

Look, too, at, say, Somalia for more blood on Hillary’s hands. Note also that weapons looted from Hillary’s Libya failure largely fuel the wars in Mali, Niger, and the Central African Republic.

If this is the leadership Clinton’s foreign policy experience offers, wouldn’t it be simpler to just drink the poison Kool Ade?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Thoughts About the Iowa Caucuses

It’s a far cry from the days when the leading Democrat in Clinton County, Iowa, drove his battered old station wagon around town button-holing pals to attend something called “the caucus.”  Not even the local press and radio paid much attention.

Yesterday virtually every pundit and pontificator in the country was in Iowa to report on the  caucuses and what, if any, portent they had for the ultimate nomination of presidential candidates.  Sanders supporters were thrilled, Hillary’s not so, by the dead heat on the Democratic side.  On the darker side, Cruz and Rubio appear to have taken a lot of the wind out of Trump’s sails.  But if there’s anything besides money that Trump has plenty of, it’s wind, so perhaps not too much should be made of the Republican results. 

Despite the prattling of the press about the differences on the Republican side, they’re all cut from the same bolt of cloth.  The election of any of the top three finishers in Iowa would be the last nail in the coffin of American so-called democracy, especially with the presumption of Republican control of both houses of Congress.

Perhaps the most encouraging conclusion to be drawn from Sanders’s tie with Clinton in Iowa is that the American left is not absolutely comatose.  There may be a breath or two of life in it. In the unlikely event that the Vermont senator goes on to capture the nomination, voters in the United States will actually have a real choice in November. How refreshing that would be!

The strongest support for Sanders seemed to be in the areas around the three major universities (Ames, Iowa City, Cedar Falls/Waterloo).  That’s encouraging, as well.  It suggests that liberalism might still be alive among young Democrats. 

A democracy is not a democracy without a viable left.  In Amerika the left has been on life support for decades, sinking recently into Stage IV metastasis. Rekindling liberalism among young adults would be a huge step in the right direction, yet even so, it might also be too little, too late.

The corporate oligarchy is so rich and powerful, its tentacles so strongly entwined around so much of life in these United States, that a rebirth of progressivism on the campuses and in the streets might be no more than interesting white noise.

But at least a Sanders campaign for the presidency, with a throng of energetic young liberals propelling it, would force American voters to talk about some of the complex problems in the world today, and some of the grand failures of recent U.S. administrations.  

It’s too early, really, to think wishfully about a Sanders run.  Once the Wall Street money kicks in after New Hampshire, The Republican Lite crowd will take over the Democratic primaries, Clinton will capture the nomination, and I will vote for Jill Stein for President. 

Meanwhile, I’m still chuckling over last night’s best laugh line.

“I’m a progressive,” Hillary said.