Friday, April 20, 2018

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend


I am no James Comey fan by any means. I believe his horrendous judgment in reporting the re-opening of the Clinton investigation right before the 2016 election (an investigation that turned out to be nothing) significantly impacted that election and foisted Donald Trump off on America. (Of course, he had help from both the Russians and misogyny.) He should have followed Department of Justice protocol and not inserted himself in the campaign. Or if he felt duty-bound to report that Hillary was under investigation, it would have only been fair to report the same about Donald Trump. But he put his finger on the scale and here we are.

Having said all that, I think he is aware that his actions were momentous for his country in a very negative way and I do truly think he is horrified and fearful of the behavior of the man he helped put in the White House.

Comey had worked with other presidents and while I'm sure he disapproved of some of their actions, they weren't egregious. Not like Trump, whom he has watched cross every ethical and moral boundary, who scorns the Rule of Law, who has tried to destroy our most respected institutions, like the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts. Trump shouts loudly via Twitter whom he thinks should be prosecuted and jailed with no evidence whatsoever, ignoring due process.  This includes his political opponents. He acts more like the Dictator of a Banana Republican than a president of the United States. None of this is normal.

Comey has testified before Congress and Robert Mueller's investigation. He has written a book - A Higher Loyalty - and set out on a book tour to try to explain his interactions with the Trump administration. Is he seeking to undo some of the damage he has caused? Probably, but it is too little, too late.

Nevertheless, I believe Comey is head and shoulders above Trump in the honesty and sincerity departments so I see him as a another soldier in the foxhole in the war against Trump. Neither of us believes in impeachment, at least for now. Comey thinks the American people should get the opportunity to correct their mistakes via the do-over of an election. I'm a little less sure that the country will survive two more years of Trump but I'm equally afraid of Mike Pence's (who was our governor in Indiana so I know him firsthand) quietly devious Christianity. He wouldn't make waves like Trump but his policies would be equally as abhorrent.

Comey and I, along with many others, are trying to raise the alarm about Trump. For the time being, at least, that makes us friends.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Who Would You Choose As Your Suspect?


Just for fun, let's say you're a detective. You investigating some serious crimes that have been committed. You have two suspects. Naturally, as part of your investigation, you have extensive background and criminal history checks done to give you some insight into who the perpetrator is most likely to be.

Guy One is about a clean as anyone can get. He married his college sweetheart and there has never been a breath of scandal to indicate that either one has ever cheated on the other. Guy One appears to be a loving, hands-on father to his children. He has a low-key and self-deprecating sense of humor.

So far as we've ever heard, his financial background is exemplary. He pays his bills. He's never filed bankruptcy. He has no conflicts in his business life. We know all this because he released his tax returns.

Guy One has never been sued so far as we know - not by creditors, employees, old girlfriends or anyone else.

He is judicious in his decision-making, perhaps a little too much so.

Guy One provided a stable work environment for his employees and most of them stuck with him. When they did leave, it wasn't because of bad blood. None of his staff has ever been indicted for any crime.

Although he may curse in private, in public, he is always conscious that he serves as a role model and talks in such a way that parents don't have to be embarrassed to have their children hear him.

He has never been charged, indicted or convicted of any crime.

He is respectful, even of his opponents.

Okay, now we come to Guy Two. He has five children from three marriages. He cheated on all his wives . He's been accused of having affairs with adult film stars and Playboy Bunnies shortly after his wife gave birth. Now he is also accused of paying those women off to keep their mouths shut.

He's been sued over 3,000 times - by creditors and employees and students in his university and investors. He often wins because he uses threats by his attorneys and bullying  and money to outlast his litigants.

His sense of humor is cruel. He engages in childish name-calling. He enjoys demeaning people he doesn't like...and even people he does like. No one walks away from him with their self-respect intact. His offices are chaotic and confusing. His rate of turnover is huge and most often the people who leave feel diminished by their service to him. Several of his business associates have been charged with crimes. Some of them have pleaded guilty.

His finances an intertwined mess. He uses his office to enrich his business. He's been accused of working with the mob and taking money from Russian oligarchs and other dictators and their banks. He's filed bankruptcy multiple times. We would know more if he released his taxes as he promised he would

He makes spur of the moment decisions that are not well-thought-out and often ago against the advice of his advisers, even though he himself has very little experience. What he does have is an ego the size of Russia. He likes strongmen better than advocates for democracy. He changes his mind on important issues from one day to the next.

He is a pathological liar. He says whatever he wants to say with no regard for the truth. His language is vile. He talks about "shithole countries" and grabbng women by the pussy and "son-of-a-bitches" and "fuckers".

Okay, so here are our two generic suspects. Just based on this background, would be be biased in favor of one being the lawbreaker than the other? Of course, you would, any rational person would.

But you notice I used the term rational because the right-wing of this country looks at this research and believe the exact opposite. It is the squeaky clean Guy One who belongs behind bars for having pulled off the most outrageous plot of all times and evidently luring thousands of people, hell, tens of thousands of people that would to have been involved in on it with him.

It is Guy Two - the liar, the cheater, con man, who the conservatives see as their hero and anyone who doesn't agree is a traitor.

It is a topsy-turvy world we live in. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Trump's "Worker-Friendly" De-regulations????


I am always asking my conservative friends (and believe it or not, I do have some) what that Donald Trump has done in the way of de-regulation they think is good for the working class. I say, "tell me five, hell, tell me three". He's signed hundreds, thousands even, so you'd think it would be easy to find three that are positive for the middle class. Not one person has ever answered me, not one. If you have some nominees, I'd be glad to hear them.

Here, I'll make it easy on you. You don't even have to do any research, just pick the ones you like.

- changing the law so that investment bankers no longer have to consider their clients as their first priority, but instead their shareholders. (Fiduciary Rule)

- making it easier for employers not to have to play overtime.

- allowing energy companies to release their coal and gas residue into streams and rivers.

- allowing energy companies to drill on every bit of the coastline of America, well, except for Florida where Mar-a-Lago is located.

- reducing the size of our two most recent national monuments (with many more under consideration for having land taken for mining and drilling.

- cutting back on the number of work safety inspectors.

- cutting back on the number of food safety inspectors.

- gutting almost every environmental program, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Powes act. Loosening the Clean and Efficient Auto standards.

- pushing legislation to allow employers to take employees' tip to distribute them as they please, including keeping them.

- loosening the rules on the big banks that almost bankrupted the country in 2008.

- relaxing the rules on what notoriously high interest rates payday lenders can charge (this was an Obama rule that had not yet gone into effect).

- allowing bears and wolves to be poisoned in their dens

- allowing hunters to bring back trophy elephants (this was dropped once but it is back under consideration.

- extending state flexibility on what is considered an "essential health benefit".

-ending Net Neutrality

- Rescinding Guidance Rules on arbitration on college campus assault.

- Rescinding Guidance Rules on Transgender issues.

- Re-interpreting rules on "Accidental Take" for Migratory Birds.

There are a few of them. There are many, many more if you want to look them up for yourself and tell me which ones you think are "worker friendly".

I'll write another blog about the answers  I get....but don't hold your breath.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Funeral Home? Are You Kidding? In a Black Neighborhood? Are You Kidding?


My husband was not a perfect man by any stretch but one thing he definitely wasn't was racist. He learned that when he was a combat veteran in Vietnam. He said when you were in a jungle with people trying to kill you, the men who had your back, as you had theirs, were brothers, not colors.

When we first moved to Springfield, Illinois, the only place we could find to rent was a small, shabby, cockroach-ridden apartment. It was awful so of course, when we had a opportunity to rent an abandoned funeral home in a black neighborhood, we jumped at the chance. It was an interesting place to live to say the least.

The funeral home had been foreclosed and the previous owner had fled, leaving all the tools of his trade behind. In the basement, the embalming table sat under a single unshaded light bulb. There was a moat and a hose leading to a drain for the blood to run out, along with several large bottles of Ozmatone. There were trays of make up and nail polish and curling irons. In what used to be the coal room, were a bunch of robes and other types of clothing that I guess bodies were wearing when they came in. A wicker body basket sat in one corner. Most people shivered when they saw it, those who would go down. It was far from the spick-and-span, white tiled mortuary most of us think of.

On the main floor, all the chairs for funerals were pink and purple wicker. There was a raised floor for the casket to sit and an organ off to the side. John could ride his pedal car in huge circles. We had friends in two different bands then and we let them practice in this room so after we came, it was filled with instruments and mike stand and coils of wire. The place was loud with rock and roll several nights a week. I guess those were our hippy days though we both worked and were clean-cut types....and we didn't do any drugs.

The second floor contained 3 apartments, one of which we lived in. The third floor had two larger apartments. We roamed through them all. We would have loaned them out to friends but few people wanted to stay there....even for free rent.

We were probably the only white people for six blocks in either direction but it didn't bother us and all our neighbors were welcoming. It wasn't a ghetto but a tidy, well-taken-care of lower-middle class neighborhood.  When John (he was a toddler then) and I would walk the three blocks to the little store, the old ladies would come and talk to us and usually send him on his way with a cupcake or cookies.

Jim used to drink with the guys in the bar down on the corner. It was a rough place (there was no sense calling the police if a fight broke out because they would not go there after dark) but they treated him the same as everyone else. They applauded his skill in shooting craps.

That was in 1970. Later, America was proud to think it had become a post-racial society but of course, it wasn't true. The most virulent bigotry had simply gone underground, as evidenced by the vicious way so many treated our first black president, making up ridiculous conspiracy theories so they could justify hating him, one of the worst being our current president.

I really think the latent racism came on strong with the killing of Trayvon Martin and escalated from there. Most conservatives, including Donald Trump, did not even want to try to understand where the "take a knee" or "black lives matter" movements came from.

I truly do not know where we go from here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

America' 'Liddle" President.


It's hard to know what to write about on any given day during the Trump administration. There's so much chaos and confusion (some of it would be comedic if it weren't so serious). You finally pick a subject and complete your first paragraph when you're alerted that some new, even bigger thing has happened.

Like the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today. And it's not that I have any great affection for Rex Tillerson or that I don't think presidents shouldn't get to choose their own staff - it is his nasty, petty, gutless way of doing it. Trump actually wanted to be even more slimy by calling the SOS when he was in Africa but I guess he was talked out of it by John Kelly so he called just after Tillerson arrived back home (Trump, of course, was winging his way across the country on Air Force One). That is about the same as Trump did with James Comey. He fired him when he was in California and was pissed because the F.B.I. let him ride back to Washington on a government plane. For a man who made his fame and fortune saying, "you're fired!", he prefers the cowardly way of "termination by tweet" in real life instead doing it face-to-face.

This is what I despise most about Trump although I loathe many things about him - his lying, his policies, his greed, his corruption - but it is his penchant for humiliation that really stokes my fire of dislike. I hated it during the campaign when he found demeaning little nicknames for his opponents. I hated it when he targeted Hillary with Crooked Hillary and then his abject fans obediently and gleefully shouted, "lock her up!" Now we're getting to see it all again in triple time because he's back on the campaign trail.

This is not the behavior of a president with any grace whatsoever, but, of course, it has continued into his administration. Hardly a member of his staff or politicians on either side of the aisle have escaped his scathing mockery. Yet most of them have swallowed the indignities to which he subjects them without complaint. When you're in this position, do you eventually build up a tolerance to being abused, sort of like battered wives, or is there some underground site most of us don't know about in which the Trump administration put an ad - "only masochists need apply"?

Trump is my idea of a real thug, not those black kids in pants pulled down to their knees singing rap in the ghetto. Yes, they can be violent and mean but they have no real power over most of us. Trump has power and he wields it with brute force. It's power that affects millions.

And I think he enjoys it. If he'd been at Abu Ghraib, he'd have been the first in line with the leash and the feces, speaking of which, America is probably on target to get back into the torture business with the new head of the C.I.A., who essentially ran the torture program under George W. Bush. Trump will probably want to be there when they waterboard the first prisoner.

I don't know that he enjoys embarrassing his wife but he certainly doesn't seem to do anything to try to avoid it. Poor Melania, I bet he wrote such an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement to benefit himself that she'd probably lose custody of Barron if she opens her mouth or tries to leave. Not that I think he wants the kid, who he treats like a complete non-entity, but he'd fight her just out of vindictiveness.

He uses DACA kids as political pawns, not really giving a damn what happens to the Dreamers. He pays lip service to kids who have experience a massacre in their school, then backs down completely in favor of the N.R.A. agenda.  Come on, Dianne Feinstein, didn't you know that's how it would end?

Trump is just pure mean and that's the way it is. And what's even worse is that his fawning followers love it about him. The more hateful he is, the more they cheer him on. They see him as strong when he's really small-minded and weak. What does this say about them?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Is This When America Was Great?



I've lived through seven decades and I keep trying to remember when America was great. You know, the time the Trumpies are referring to when they say they want to make America great again..

I don't remember much about the 50's being still just a little girl when they were over but I know people who idealize that innocent, Father Knows Best era. And for a lot of white Americans who'd just come back from the war, it probably was pretty great. They went to school on their VA loans, became professionals, bought houses, raised families. That's if they weren't suffering from battle fatigue (now called PTSD) from the horrific things they'd seen and done in World War II.

Maybe it wasn't so great for the women who'd gone to work en masse to help their country while their men were gone, then told to get back in the kitchen where they belonged when the boys returned.

And maybe it wasn't so great for gays who were mostly probably afraid to admit who they were for fear of losing their family, their job and their church.

And it wasn't so great for African-Americans. I remember hearing a black grandmother tell her story on the radio about an amusement park that existed at that time. ( I think it was in Birmingham). White kids could go have fun there 364 days a year but black kids could go one day a year. One stinking day!

This woman told how longingly her children would peer through the fence at the white kids and ask, "when will it be our turn again, Mama?" She talked about how sad and furious it made her. She would liked to have told the park people to stick it and never let her kids go there but they waited so eagerly and patiently for their day.

I thought then, and still think, that was one of the saddest stories I ever heard. I could feel that mother's anger and bitterness and defeat in my own stomach.

That surely wasn't when America was great.

Then came the Sixties and the assassination of a president and of a presidential candidate and of a civil rights leader and another. That was when we threw stones and cursed little girls trying to go to school and beat African-Americans crossing a bridge for voter's rights.

My husband was in Vietnam in 1965, in the first group that was announced to be going to combat. We barely knew where Vietnam was then but a decade and 58,000 plus bodies later, we'd learned a lot about Vietnam....except why were there.

When Jim came home, he wasn't approved to join the Veteran's of Foreign Wars because they said he hadn't been in a war, only a police action.

"Huh," said the ex-combat medic, "it sure felt like a war to me."

(He died in 1989 of Agent Orange-related lung cancer - something the Army admitted when they paid him an Agent Orange pension).

Many people protested, of course, but the final tragedy of Vietnam was our kids (the National Guard) killing our kids (the Kent State protesters).

Surely that wasn't when America was great.

In the 70's, I was helping my father in his bar. I couldn't sit at the bar myself. Women couldn't. I couldn't walk with a drink in my hand unless it was on a tray and I was delivering it to a customer. I guess those things weren't considered lady-like.

I was working then as a Personnel Secretary. My boss quit and I filled in for him for six months until his replacement was hired. Everything went fine for that six months and I went to talk to the Plant Manager about getting the job full-time My boss made $18,000 a year; I made $9,000. The Plant Manager said no. He was adamant that people would never accept a woman in that position.

Incidentally, they hired a man who had been the head of the welfare department in a fairly large city.  (Naturally, I had to train him). He hated African-Americans and thought the answer to the "black problem" was to neuter every male nigger baby for 100 years. Just in case you were thinking, you know, that racism had become a thing of the past by the 70's.

Was that when America was great?

Then came the 80's. It's true that many Americans who worked in factories were living high, wide and handsome. It was all my peers' goal in life to get a job in one of the auto plants. They could live well - houses, cars, vacations, send their kids to college. The people who worked in pissy-ass, low-wage factories were often jealous of the auto workers instead of proud that a group of American workers had fought, literally fought, to join the middle class.

But then Reagan came along with the "trickle down" theory which Republicans keep trying even though it keeps failing. Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union and that was the start of the downfall of American Labor. Union membership declined, wages began going down (many plants then began implementing a two-tier wage system pitting one group of employees against the other). Benefits declined. Pensions were rescinded. We forget that even that wasn't enough. Before we'd ever heard of NAFTA, American businesses were leaving the U.S. in droves. We had a war in Iraq in the 80's. At least, Old George Bush made it short and sweet. It ended with the Highway of Death, burning alive 100s of 1000s of fleeing Iraqis. Ah, it made you proud to be an American. Maybe that's when we were great.

I don't remember exactly when Rush Limbaugh came on the scene but he was the forerunner of the right wing media. I can recall being shocked at how mean he was. Remember when he said the Clintons didn't need a dog because they had Chelsea and all his conservative followers thought it was hilarious? They've only gotten more hateful since.

The 90's were probably my favorite decade of my adulthood but it is also when the extreme partisanship between the parties began. I remember listening to hours of cable news discussing impeachment. Not content to try to win the next election on the merits, the Republicans (now the Trumpicans) were determined to rid themselves of Clinton at any cost to the nation's unity, the Rule of Law and the Constitution. They didn't quite succeed but they caused a great deal of damage to our country's psyche along the way. I despised them for what they did.

A new century and a new president - George Bush the Younger. I never really hated George Bush. I actually thought he was probably a nice man in his personnel life. But the Iraq War was his downfall. Another Vietnam. A war based on the lies of our leaders. Torture. Extreme Rendition. Guantanamo. Abu Ghraib. Oh, my God, those pictures were so horrifying. I couldn't believe that was Americans seemingly happily perpetrating those acts of torture and humiliation. We lost our morals and our principles in Iraq. And here we still are all those years later.

Nope, that was definitely not a great time.

We replaced Bush with Obama in the next decade. Wow, our first black president. Look at us evolve. No more racism for us! But the same people who'd engaged in Clinton Hatred came out from under their rocks and became even more vile and vicious against Obama. He wasn't even really an American or a Christian, an illegitimate president, don't you know? The product of a global conspiracy. The right-wing media became even more dishonest and poisonous. Still, we managed a few good things like national health care and civil rights for gays.

But the divisions between us were too ugly to be considered great.

And then, we elected (sort of) Donald Trump - and I suspect this will be the least great period of time in America that any of us alive today will have ever known.


Friday, February 9, 2018

From the Heights to the Depths

Tesla Motors LA Flagship Store Launch                                                    Donald Trump's back with 14 'Apprentice' All-Stars

Wow what a week - inspiration to desperation. On the one hand, we have the launch of Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. (See it here.  Falcon Heavy Launch.)  I've probably watched it at least 20 times. Not only the launch itself but the booster rockets - as the Falcon Heavy was streaking its way into deep space, the boosters turned around and headed for home making perfect landings on their launch pads. Abso-freaking-lutely incredible!

To show that Elon Musk is not only an entrepreneur extraordinaire and a brilliant inventor but that he has a droll sense of humor as well, the Falcon Heavy contains a brand-new cherry-red Tesla convertible with a dummy dressed in a space suit behind the wheel. Inside the rocket, a never ending loop plays Elton John's Rocket Man.

I don't know anything about Elon Musk's personal life and I don't want to know. I'm sick of knowing about personal lives of private people. I only want to know about accomplishments. Musk is the CEO of the Tesla Company and many other enterprises. (He's a billionaire many times over). His company invented a kind of roofing material that creates its own solar energy without the need for solar panels. He offered to build the entire Puerto Rican electrical grid via solar power. If they'd let him do it, the whole island would probably have power by now.

He's a risk-taker and a visionary who wants to make the world a better place. Climate change is one of his big issues and he puts his own money where his mouth is.

(Incidentally, he is also an immigrant, a native of Pretoria, South Africa -you know, one of those shithole African countries).

And then we have this week in Trump and the Republicans. I honestly can't believe anyone can watch our government in action and not conclude that is a total shambles. We've already had two shutdowns just this years and it is only February. The politicians solved that problem for a while but in doing that and giving the rich ginormous tax breaks, those deficit hawks, the Republicans added trillions to the budget deficit. Where is it going to come from. If you said, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, you probably guessed right.

Meanwhile, Trump continues a war with his own F.B.I. and Justice Department and Republicans put out secret memos that land with a clunk all to protect Trump. Now they are working on doing the same to the State Department although it is practically a skeleton of an agency already.

Our scandal-plagued White House is now embroiled in yet another one regarding a man, Rob Porter, who abused both of his ex-wives so that the F.B.I. wouldn't grant him a security clearance even though he saw every paper that went in front of the president. But, oh, well, we already had Jared Kushner, who also couldn't qualify for a security clearance.

The White House handled this latest mess with its usual tone-deaf ham-handedness. They ignored it until it became public, then they stood up for "their guy" and finally when pictures came out, they reacted, saying they didn't know before that. Bull! The President himself is the only one who can allow people to see classified information without a security clearance.

When Trump finally came out with a statement, it was the most milquetoast thing you've ever heard. He basically praised Rob Porter and wished him well and never bothered to mention the victims. I supposed Trump, the many-times-accused assaulter, relates to Porter's situation.

Meanwhile, staff continues to leave the administration like rats leaving a sinking ship. The latest one is Rachel Brand, Number Three at the Justice Dept. She has a sterling reputation and that's probably why she's leaving. She wants it to stay that way and she sees that Trump brings everyone he comes in contact with down to his amoral level

What else? Well, Trump said Democrats were guilty of treason because they didn't clap at his State of the Union address. The stock market is in "correction territory", whatever the hell that means. John Kelly, who is one of those people who've gone from being considered admirable to one considered a pathetic sycophant said most illegal immigrants brought here as children were too lazy to get off their asses and sign up for the DACA program though I expect it is because they simply don't trust this Congress or president not to use their paperwork to deport them. I could go on but what's the use?

God, I wish we'd elected Elon Musk - or really anybody - rather than Donald Trump.