Wednesday, June 21, 2017

We Broke It, We Own It

There is only one political party in the tragi-comic, third-rate banana republic that still calls itself the United States of America.

It is an amalgam of angry white male ignoramuses, rich and powerful oligarchs and military-industrial despots, titularly headed by a perpetual adolescent devoid of ethics or morality whose mental stability is questionable.

The last vestiges of opposition are rotting in the political sewer where a moribund Democratic party went to die after declaring itself “centrist.”

Recent special elections, especially yesterday’s fiasco in Georgia, have affirmed that American voters neither want nor deserve good government.  They want only to have their mindless rage and hatred ratified by hearing it repeated by the unfit little demagogues they have put in public office.

Have recent electoral surprises in other democratic nations given a glimmer of hope to those thinking few who seek to save a semblance of our own original democratic republic? Two years ago, Emmanuel Macron’s Le Republique en Marche party did not exist.  Now Marcon is president of France and his party firmly controls Parliament with a mandate to clean up the sleaze of traditional politics.  In France, Marcon and his followers are called centrist, but in America their positions would be well to the left of the corrupt notions that now govern us. Could a brand-new party of the left pull off a Macron miracle in the U.S.? Not likely.

Once dismissed as a silly sideline act, Jeremy Corbyn, who heads the United Kingdom’s lefty Labour Party, led an electoral surge in the recent election that all but unseated Prime Minister Theresa May’s repressive Conservative coalition. Could, say, Bernie Sanders become America’s Jeremy Corbyn?

There remained in France and Britain pockets of thinking voters to whom Macron and Corbyn could address their appeals. Such voters amount to a mere handful here.  Those who still espouse an enlightened liberalism that might yet rally a redemptive revolution are dispersed, dispirited and seemingly incapable of actually organizing anything like a movement.

As a people, we are stuck with the fading, failing system of so-called government that we deserve.  We voted for it.




Thursday, May 11, 2017

A New Kind of Progress

This is a country where you can be jailed for giggling when the blatant racist who is attorney general says something particularly stupid, even for him.

This is a country where a news reporter can be arrested for raising questions with the cabinet officer whose policies are likely to kill thousands of people.

This is a country where a college can lose funding because some of its students turned their backs on a secretary of education who knows no more about  education than a hog butcher knows about veterinary medicine.

This is Trumpistan, the former United States of America.
  
Its chief executive officer lies so serially, so obviously, that it's difficult to find kernals of truth in even his most mundane remarks.  If he says, "Good morning," staffers look out the window for signs of a hurricane.

He has no domestic policy except to destroy things that have annoyed him over the years of his perpetual adolescence, or to twist the law in ways that will ensure that his labyrinthine business empire continues to squeeze obscene profits out of everything within its reach.

See all those mountains and valleys and rivers and canyons where even the poor can afford to hike and swim and take snapshots?  Kick the little fuckers out and turn those lands over to people who know what to do with them, people like me, who will build towers and ticky-tacky, dig wells and mine coal, make us Great again.

See all those clinics and hospitals where 40 million Americans who never could afford it before are getting medical care?  Board them up and spend the money on bombs and guns to make us Great again.  Let the sick little fuckers cower in dark corners till they die.  What they deserve for not living good, right- wing lives.

See all those seedy little twerps in their shapeless tweed coats and green eyeshades, doing science to protect public health, save the planet from anthropomorphic destruction and improve the quality of life? Kick their hairless asses out into the street to sell pencils or sweep up dogshit until they get religion and learn the will of God.

See all those women of color lined up at Planned Parenthood for health care, birth control and empowerment over their own bodies? Toss their black asses back to the earthen-floored huts where they belong, barefoot and pregnant and boiling collard greens.  Give the money to cities and states to buy tanks and drones for the riot police.

See all those brown and yellow and red people, the ragheads and Pocahontases and Miguels, lining up to get handouts from our tax money? Pitch them and their squalling brats into filthy holding tanks until we can send them back where they came from, or anyplace else but here, which as everyone knows was built and made Great by white, male Americans.

Trumpistan has two kinds of media — failing and Fox.  Failing media, epitomized by the New York Times, assemble facts and package them in ways called “false news.”  Fox lies and repeats my lies and provides a forum where my minions can lie.  This is called reality TV. Fox is making America Great again.

In addition to domestic policy, the president of Trumpistan controls the country’s foreign policy.  This essentially involves making war or threatening to make war.  War makes America Great again because it makes American oligarchs richer.  Foreign policy requires the leader of Trumpistan to know the names of foreign countries and their leaders, which are often hard to pronounce.  That’s why he hires people like Tillerson and Flynn to pronounce them for him. But  you know how hard it is to get good help these days.  Take Flynn.  Take him way out on the ocean, give him cement shoes and let him learn to swim.

To do foreign policy, you’ve got to know the good guys from the bad.  Most of the best guys are dictators.  So they’ve got a little blood on their hands.  You don’t  see drug-dealers running around the streets of the Philippines, do you?  Dictators know how to run things.  They see something needs building, a tower, say, or a golf course, they just build it.  No screwing around with congress or parliament or whatever.

Here in this country, we’ve still got too many nuisances like laws and that damned Constitution.  But we’re getting there.  We’re making America Great again.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Beyond Outrage

The most loathsome animal ever to slither into the White House has now taken the presidency deeper into the sewer than it has ever been before.

By firing the director of the FBI, under the given circumstances and for such obviously phony reasons, the hollow narcissist who conned an entire country has all but acknowledged that he not only compromised his office, but he probably committed treason. Director James Comey, for all his flaws and shortcomings, was getting uncomfortably close to the smoking gun; he had to go.

Those Washington insiders who call Trump's action "Nixonian" are demeaning Nixon: not even Tricky Dick's infamous Saturday Night Massacre can touch Orange Boy's cynical sleaze in this case.Nixon abused his power by seeking to end an investigation into a tawdry domestic burglary committed by his agents to improve his chances of re-election.  He never made a dishonest dime from it.

Orange Boy is abusing the powers of the presidency to keep hidden far, far larger crimes against the people in order to engorge his personal fortune.

He has refused to divest.  He refuses to release his tax returns.  He is hiding things; big things; big, bad things.  

Already his agents and nominees to key posts have been found to have had suspicious dealings with Russia.  The racist attorney general had to recuse himself from the ongoing Russian investigations, although he gleefully participated in the decision to fire Comey.  Orange Boy’s original nominee for national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was fired because he was up to his ears in back-door foreign deals.  Two army secretary nominees had to withdraw.  Never in history has a new president nominated so many unfit people to so many high posts in government.  Far too many of them have been confirmed.  Science, public lands, public health, public services — every good thing done by or on behalf of national government for the last 80years — have been sacrificed on the altar of Trumpian greed.

And now this.  In spite of himself, our Inspector Clouseau was closing in on the ugly truth, and the little dictator fired him.

What else to expect from someone whose mentor was Roy Cohn?  Roy Cohn!  The very same Roy Cohn who earned his doctorate in demagoguery at the right hand of Joe McCarthy himself. The Roy Cohn whose bullying, cheating, dissembling  once befuddled the entire army hierarchy. The Roy Cohn whose empty legal offices in New York still reek of the graft, calumny and slime that got him disbarred.  That Roy Cohn, mentor to our so-called president.

The investigative journalist David Cay Johnston has adroitly assembled the record of how Orange Boy built his fortune through alliances with mobsters, deals with drug kingpins, platoons of labor goons, litigation, double crosses, contract reneging, cheating of little guys like laborers and small contractors.  He’s using the same methods now on an international scale.

Contrarian pundits would have us believe that the Russia investigations were hysteria rooted in old Cold War propaganda, warmed over for new times.  That is simply false.

This is serious concern about backdoor mortgaging of the presidency to a foreign power — any  foreign power — for the personal profit of the Trumps, at the risk of the national interest and security of the United States.

That smells like treason.  Of course it has to be properly investigated. By an independent prosecutor with broad powers to subpoena and require testimony under oath. Now.




Sunday, April 9, 2017

More Tales from Trumpistan

There is turmoil in Trumpistan.  Its spokesman has turned into a bowl of cheese puffs.  Its Alt-Pres. has been demoted.  In fact, Ratso Rednose has lost his seat on the National Security Council, too.  Orange Boy has ordered the First Son-in-Law to put away the knives and make nice with Ratso and the rest of the schemers and plotters.

Who's in? Who's out? Who's up? Who's down? Why cheese puffs? What happened to the chocolate mints? It's like the bad old days in Russia. Pundits are panting over the picture of the White House meeting before Orange Boy ordered the missile strike on Syria.

Who's seated where? Who's scowling? Who's smiling? Sneering? Scratching his ear? Who was fer it, who was agin it?

Why did Orange Boy change his policy? He didn't change it, he never had a policy.  Well, he has one now: his policy is not to have a policy.  

He likes military toys.  The Tomahawks worked so well that he's learning the names of all the other missiles.  He's got warships sailing thither and yon all over the eastern seas. Gotta be careful they don't bump into one another.  Aircraft carriers can't turn on a dime, y'know.

He had a "working meeting" with President Xi Jinping of China.  Big diplomatic triumph, Trumpistan crowed.  Not if you read the newspapers in China. Their guy treated the American like a scolded schoolboy, they wrote, especially if you looked at the photograph of the two men seated on a White House sofa: Orange Boy slouching in a pout, Xi Jinping upright and stern, pointing a finger at the host.  The two presidents were supposed to “work on” another problem brat in the world, Kim Jong-un of North Korea.  Fat Boy, too, likes to play with military toys and has been shooting missiles in a manner that annoys his neighbors.  Orange Boy got no promises from Xi Jinping about controlling North Korea.

So what did he accomplish?  Well, some of the TV guys said, he looked really presidential when he shot those Tomahawks into syria while eating baked Alaska with his guest.  How can a fat, pouty 70-year-old manchild with a dead orange animal on his head look presidential?  Never mind the truth.  It was the designated narrative of the day: “Looked presidential.”

Rex Tillerson, the Exxon-Mobil warlord who has been made secretary of state, defined the North Korea situation one way: “President Xi clearly understands, and I think agrees, that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken.”  Nikki Haley, the addle-pated United States ambassador to the U.N. saw it differently.  Xi Jinping might be dragging his feet, but the U.S. was quite ready to go it alone using force.  Who writes the scripts for these people?

ButOrange Boy had a really big victory in the Senate, you’ve got to agree on that, right?  Got his man Gorsuch confirmed to the open seat on the Supreme court, giving the fascist wing a 5-4 majority again. And all they had to do was kill the last vestiges of democracy in the upper house, changing the rules of operation in ways that had never been attempted before.

Trumpistan stands where once there was a democratic republic.  It wasn’t perfect, and recent regimes had presided over  symptoms of decay, but at least it retained vestiges of what its founders had intended.  Every now and then sane office-holders actually engaged in serious, civil debate.

But that was then.  This is now.  Bigly.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Toys of Mass Destruction

Great Powers have been meddling in the Middle East at least since World War I.  Each meddle has made an impossibly complicated geopolitical mess even more complicated.

Now comes the narcissistic manchild of the west, taking a turn at havoc.  The Orange Boy loves toys almost as bigly as he loves himself and seeing his name in large gilt letters.  Yesterday, he turned loose 59 of them against Syria, without bothering to consult Congress, as that finicky old Constitution requires.  Wheeee!  See the bang-bangs.  I am sooooo great!

As he intended, he is now the center of attention in the world, basking in the praise of just about everyone except Russia, Iran and a few fuddy-duddies in congress who still think the Founders were serious when they invested war-making powers solely in the legislative branch of government.

What next? is the frightening question now.  Things are vastly more complicated than they were a mere two days ago.  Then we were wondering what really happened with the chlorine-sarin gas attacks in battered, shattered, civil war-torn Syria.

Orange Boy’s secretary of state, the oil baron Rex Tillerson, who knows where the crude is buried but not the hatchets, assured the world that there is absolute proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind horrible nerve-gas attack in Idlib.  Just as then Secretary of State Colin Powell assured the United Nations, the United States and the world that there was absolute proof that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. (False). Just as the Obama administration assured everyone in 2013 that Assad had used banned nerve gas in an assault on his own people.  (False).

Tillerson’s proof consists of radar video, not yet released to the public, clearly showing planes taking off from a Syrian air force base and dropping bombs on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, a province in northern Syria controlled by an alliance of rebel groups, including a powerful faction linked to al-Qaeda. Tillerson says the projectiles the aircraft dropped contained the deadly, banned gas.  Russia says they were conventional bombs that hit a building where the rebels had stored the gas.

Orange Boy
It was Russia’s President Vladimir Putin who, in 2013, brokered the deal that caused U.S. President Obama to hold off on military reprisal against Assad.  The deal called for Russia to monitor Syria’s destruction of all its chemical weapons.  Supposedly, this was done.

The air force base that Orange Boy’s toys targeted is 67 miles from Khan Sheikhoun. We are told today that our military gave the Russian military advance notice of the strike.  Even so, some Russians soldiers were still there when the cruise missiles hit. Syrian sources said only 26 of the missiles reached their targets.  Does it matter how many?  Seven people were reported killed in the strike.  One of them may have been Russian.

Today, Russia responded by announcing it would beef up its aerial presence and aerial defense support in Syria. The Kremlin suspended a 2015 memorandum of understanding  to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents between United States and Russian military aircraft operating over Syria.  That could lead to big trouble. It was Russia’s military assistance that enabled the Assad government to turn the tide in the six-year-old civil war.  It was, inch by inch, village by village, winning that war when the poison gas incident occurred. Why, then, would Assad risk everything, outraging the world by killing civilians and children with outlawed chemical weaponry that he had promised to destroy?  Doing so, an Iranian political analyst named Mosib Na’imi said yesterday, “would be a crazy move” under the circumstances.

But crazy is normal in the Middle East.

Somebody loosed the nerve gas on civilians.  Horrid pictures of dead and suffering children were on TV.

Orange Boy doesn’t read.  He gets his information from the TV.  His generals offered him a range of options — including one that called for firm insistence that Russia make good on its 2013 deal, with the implied threat of future military action against Assad.

Orange Boy chose instead to make bang-bang with his big, bad toys.

Now the world cringes.  Its diplomats and generals and political leaders ask themselves, what next in the Middle East?

Hang onto your ass.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Good Day at the Pass


They turned on the river yesterday.  It seemed like a good time to drive way across town and revisit the mountains.

For much of the year our part of the Rio Grande is a river of sand but in spring, they open the gates at the reservoirs upstream and it flows, brown and fetid, into Texas and Mexico. Near the Mesilla bridge, two cars were parked and guys were sitting in folding chairs, fishing.  Hundreds of miles to the north, the Rio Grande roars between high cliffs and anglers catch trout.  I don’t want to know what, if anything, they catch down here.

When we first drove out University Avenue almost three decades ago, Dripping Springs Road and Baylor Canyon Road were rocky, pitted, narrow passages, little better than jeep tracks.  Now almost the entire route is paved and the section that isn’t has been widened, scraped and covered with “crusher fine” gravel.  Smooth.

I presume the road improvements, and the other refinements we noted, were paid for with federal funds that accompanied the designation of the new Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National monument, which embraces the Dripping Springs recreation area, the Baylor Pass trail, the Aguirre Springs campground and recreation area, and much more. Lois wanted to photograph the golden poppy fields at Aguirre Springs.  We took the scenic route.

Poppies in the Organ Foothills
It had been so long since we last went over there that we were surprised by the enhancements the monument designation had spawned, and by the sheer beauty of being up close to the mountains.  New signs and markers have been placed at various points, with text explaining how the mountains came to be, where the old Lost Padre Mine was, the stories of the padre, the Hermit, Col. Baylor and his great Civil War victory. The new regime in Washington wants to give all these public lands back to the states and to private interests which will exploit and spoil them for a brief spree of obscene profit. The Republican who represents this district fought the national monument for a decade.  Our U.S.  senators and other saner voices prevailed, but now the people-haters and climate-deniers want to tear apart everything we’ve gained.

How, I wondered, as we paused at Organ Peak Road for picture-taking, could anyone with a soul, a brain, a shred of humanity, want to end the protections of these places? The sun was intense, the sky virtually cloudless.  Others were about, exploring and enjoying the monument.  California, Minnesota, Nevada, Iowa, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin.  On our second or third visit here we had seen only one non-local vehicle, driven by a nurse from El Paso whose boyfriend helped us change a tire on the Jeep. Now we were part of a flow of tourists.  Tourists spend money for local goods and services.  Recent studies have shown that all of the newer national parks and monuments have been economic boons for local businesses.  Yet here, and in Utah, especially, the congressional fruitcakes of the GOP want to dismantle them and let the corporate bloodsuckers dig and drill and despoil.  Madness.

Monument money at last has enabled the Bureau of Land Management to replace the stolen marker that tells the story of Baylor Pass.  During the Civil War, a Union battalion was stationed at Mesilla,  It had its own hospital and medical staff.  Among its stores was a supply of medicinal whiskey.  One day the Pinkertons, as was their wont, reported to the Union commander that a far superior Confederate force was on its way.  The order to retreat was sounded and many of the troops, rather than letting the stuff fall into Johnny Reb’s hands, filled their canteens with whiskey rather than water. By the time they had traversed the 13 miles over hot, arid desert to the foot of the nearest pass over the Organs, most of them were sick and drunk.  Some had even ditched their weapons and gear.  When the six or seven mounted troops of the Confederate advance unit overtook them, the entire battalion surrendered to Col. John Robert Baylor’s men. The pass where these events took place is now named for the man who won this great victory.

It’s a short jaunt to Aguirre Springs from the end of Baylor Canyon Road, via U.S. Highway 70.  The road follows St, Augustine Pass from whose  7,500-foot summit one has a sweeping view of the Organs, the San Andres and the White Sands Missile Range.  The road from the highway to Aguirre Springs borders an artillery range.  Little puffs of smoke rose in the distance to the east.  We scanned the western slopes for poppy fields.

We had missed the peak season, which had come a little earlier than usual this year.  Lois, who is passionate about these poppies, spotted a few patches, glittering golden in the bright sunlight.  She made many pictures.

It was a good day.  As always in the west, we wondered how many more such days there would be before the bad guys had their way with the land.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Treason Against Mankind

Whatever remains of this nation, and this planet, four years from now, historians and scientists will sift through the ashes looking for evidence of criminality.  Which crime of Donald J. Trump will they assess to be the most serious?

Arguably, his massive destruction of environmental progress and protections.  “Treason against the human race” is how my journalist friend, Steve Klinger, aptly describes these horrors.  Absent the initiation of nuclear war, these crimes will stand as the most serious attempts ever made by a national leader to destroy the entire world.

As usual, the carnival antics of his attempt at governance will distract attention from the depths of his depravity on this and the other great issues of our time.

Who leaked what to whom and why?  Who owes his or her vast wealth to dalliances with the worst of the financial criminals in other countries? Who sold out to whom and when?  Secret sallies by corrupt congressmen in the dead of night into White House grounds to receive purloined documents. Lies to congress by appointees to head the regulatory agencies of government.  Lies to the people by a peccary in an ill-fitting suit.  Lies! Fake news!  Tweets! Sad.

Never has the democratic republic been in such a sorry state.  Never has there been such a paucity of integrity and leadership at the highest levels of government.  Never has the common man been under such relentless attack from all directions.  Never has there been such a sweeping destruction of basic human rights.  Life — air fit to breathe, water safe to drink, poison-free food in adequate supply to feed all the people. Liberty — freedom from fear of the police and of government spies and of religious hatred; freedom to speak openly in criticism of government mis-rule; freedom to worship, or not worship, as one’s conscience dictates.  The pursuit of happiness — health care for all, with women guaranteed the right to control their own bodies without government interference; public lands, wisely managed and protected for the good of all, not just a handful of greedy corporations and land-rapers; living with and loving whom one pleases; a share of the great national wealth allocated to the encouragement and development of the arts and sciences; tolerance of neighbors of different colors, traditions and values.

Day after day the populace is assaulted by new hateful executive orders, vicious new laws, rights-stomping regulations.  Our leaders open their mouths and villainy spews out.  Even the rhetoric of government pollutes air already increasingly laden with deadly elements.  The technology is so vast, so rapidly expanding, that there is no safe corner, no soothing nook, in which to find a moment’s rest, a few seconds of peace and safety.  We are encased in a vast and sophisticated apparatus of repression and it is managed by a madman.

But worst of all, this madman has chosen to make war upon the thin veneer of elements enveloping this planet that can sustain the life that has evolved upon it.  Not since the Great Extinction have so many creatures been threatened with elimination within so brief a period of time.  Never have there been so many threats to human health, vitality and existence, deliberately and maniacally exacerbated by a single man and his vile cohorts.

Once, Time magazine wondered on its cover, “Is God Dead?”  More recently, Time magazine wondered on its cover, “Is Truth Dead?”

Now it is time to wonder, “Is Civilization Dead?”  Because there will be no one left to wonder when the entire world is dead.

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,