Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tale of Three Prisoner Releases


The hostages huddled in the airport awaiting the plane that would bring them from Iran back to the United States. I imagine it was a rather anxious time wondering if it was real and not a sick Iranian joke. On the other side of the world, stressed families also waited to see if they were truly going to see their loved ones again.

This was all part of two-track negotiations with Iran. One track was the effort to convince Iran to cease its attempts to build nuclear weapons. As part of that, the U.S. agreed to release funds we'd had frozen for decades. In addition, we were to release some of Iran's hostages and they were to release some of ours. It was all very intertwined and complex.

There's still not much trust between Iran and America so sensibly, the Obama administration made the decision not to turn over their money - $400 million - until our hostages were safely released just in case Iran decided to renege. This seems like the soul of commonsense to me.

But, of course, conservatives were outraged, outraged, I say! In their eyes, it was paying ransom for hostages. In the administration's eyes, it was getting the maximum benefit from something that was going to happen anyway.

Can you even imagine the Republican screaming if Obama hadn't gotten our hostages released? Then they would have been yelling furiously about how the president abandoned them because he simply didn't care!

It was the same with Bowe Bergdahl. The Republicans ranted and raved because the administration didn't get our soldier back from the Taliban. Our sacred honor was at stake. America NEVER abandons it's own!

So, Bowe Bergdahl came home, not to a hero's welcome, but to face charges of desertion. But that wasn't enough for Republicans. Now they said, we should not have wasted our time and effort to rescue him. Now they said he was a filthy deserter who should be hanged on the spot! We doan' need no steenken' trial!

Documents released from the first investigation, which have not previously been disclosed, indicate that the Army’s 22-member investigative team, which spent two months interviewing scores of witnesses and compiled the report that formed the initial basis for prosecuting Sergeant Bergdahl, never proposed that he could be tried on the most serious charge he now faces which carries a sentence of up to a year in prison.

And how did that happen? The usual pissing and moaning by the right from people who don't know what the hell they are talking about and should never have poked their noses in an on-going trial.

John McCain, for instance, who stated Bergdahl "clearly deserted his post" and who promised to hold congressional hearings if Bergdahl isn't sufficiently punished in a way McCain approves of. And yes, our favorite presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has insisted all along that Bergdahl is a "dirty, rotten traitor".

And then there was Andrew Tahmooressi, the former Marina who was arrested and imprisoned in Mexico for 7 months for bringing guns across the border. He said he made a wrong turn...and perhaps he did.

Of course, the Obama administration had absolutely nothing to do with Tahmooressi's release. According to one conservative source, Donald Trump sent money to the ex-Marine whom Obama had "left to rot in Mexico".

And how do they know there weren't negotiations going on behind the scene? Well, they just do. The Mexican judge released Tahmooressi from jail out of the kindness of his heart. American officials had absolutely nothing to do with it.

So, the Obama administration obviously can't win with these folks. They got the Iranian hostages released....bad. They got Bowe Bergdahl released....bad. They didn't get Tahmooressi released, that credit goes to someone else....bad.

Do you think they would ever admit anything Obama did was good? Do they simply bald-faced lie or are they so far gone in Obama hate that they believe what they say?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Is Hate Our New Normal?

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It seems we all need a HATE button on our computers these days. I keep telling myself I'm going to take a vacation from politics. The ugliness almost makes me sick sometimes, and it certainly makes me depressed, but I'm drawn to it the way you can't pull your eyes away from a terrible wreck.

There appears to no longer be any middle ground in America. You're either a Libtard or a Repug and every single thing you believe is lies - flat out, deliberate, told-on-purpose lies. Because either you're in cahoots with the bad guys or you're just plain stupid.

Nobody with a brain could support that Queen of Evil, Hillary Clinton. Likewise, no one with an i.q. over 20 could support the Prince of Darkness, Donald Trump.  "They" are all morons who obviously want to destroy America.

Oh, man, wouldn't you love to slam that HATE button when you see a positive article about Hillary? Donald? Since there is no HATE button, you make up for it in comments. Your loathing practically drips off the computer screen.  Some of the nasty memes we see on Facebook are shocking for those of us who are older. I've worked around politics for most of my adult life and I've never seen anything like it. We all worked for our candidates but after the rally or debate was over, we were all friends again.

Even after the election, we were all friends again but, of course, that was before the man who won was a (Black) Kenyan Muslim Communist Socialist Fascist who wanted to take all our guns and replace our laws with Sharia.

We don't simply confine ourselves to despising the candidates and their fans, we now detest the media too. You can't trust a word they say because they all have an agenda. Maybe there's a source hidden over there on the right (Breitbart) or the left (Blue Nation Review) that you can put your faith in but it's pretty scary out here in the world when you watch the news and know none of it is reliable information. It makes you have to cling to one another all the more tightly to protect yourself from the "others".

The opposing side can do no right. Trump going to Louisiana makes him a saint to his people but his visit is characterized as a cheap photo op by his opponents. Obama not going because Governor Edwards asked him to wait so as not to disrupt the on-going rescue effort, is totally unbelievable to his opponents who know he didn't come because he flatly DIDN'T CARE.

What is most frightening about all this is that I don't know how we're going to put the genie back in the bottle. We've got what, about 80 days before the election? But I don't think it will be over when it's over. Yes, someone will be named president but the hate and the disbelief will remain. After such a vicious year, I don't think it is simply a matter of laying down our arms and saying, "hey, we're altogether again."

One man told me that if Trump loses to expect a blood bath because his people will know that he lost because a rigged system cheated him out of his rightful victory and if I think they're going to take that lying down, I'm crazy.

Is hate the new normal for America? And if so, what does that mean?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Here We Go Again.....

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It's beginning to feel like deja vu all over again. I'll be 70 tomorrow and this is the third time, I've listened to Republican politicians read me this same fairy tale. First it was Ronald Reagan who said we could lower taxes, spend more on the military and cut the deficit. It was all about the stimulating affect of tax cuts. They would pay for themselves and there'd be so much overflow in growth that prosperity would spill over to the rest of us. It didn't make sense to those of us weren't economic experts. In fact, it seemed like adding two plus two and trying to get nine but what did we know?

Well, it didn't work. Two plus two still equaled four. The deficit soared and the trickle down never happened. We ended up with the Savings and Loan Crisis. Remember that? A lot of people who lost their homes and their savings probably do.

Then it was George W Bush who pedaled the trickle-down theory. We could massively cut taxes, spend more on defense and cut the deficit. Oh, and we could also fight two wars and add another "entitlement", Medicare Part D, without paying for any of it because the lower taxes would stimulate our GDP and pay for themselves and that rising tide would raise all our boats. Whee, full speed ahead!

But, again, it didn't work. The deficit ballooned and the trickle down never happened. We ended up with the Banking Crisis. Millions of people lost their homes, their savings and their jobs. The argument that if we gave more money to the rich, who were the "job creators", they would reward us by financing a boom in employment didn't pan out. Instead, they took the money and ran off to the Cayman Islands to celebrate their burgeoning wealth.

And now, here we are again with Donald Trump trying to convince us that the third time is the charm and that what never succeeded before will surely succeed this time. His tax cuts will go primarily to the rich and corporations. Business will be freed of all that excessive regulation, you know, the regulations that ensure that their product have to meet minimum standards for our health and safety, the regulations that mandate that they must comply with environmental laws, the regulations that monitor them to assure they aren't cheating us on our financial contracts,

And surely, this time, the God of Growth will see to it that the deficit nose-dives. And surely, this time, the job creators will be falling all over themselves to offer us high-paying jobs.

And if we are stupid enough to buy into it yet again, then we deserve what we get.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Steady-As-She-Goes Hillary or Half-cocked Donald.


What a relief that was! After the discouraging, depressing, demoralizing Republican convention, we got some uplift and some happiness from the Democrats. It was like coming into the light after a long trek down a dark road. The hall and the speakers were a picture of America - all ages, all colors, all ethnic groups, all religions. The speakers were inspiring - Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine and of course, Hillary herself. There were Muslim Gold Star parents and the disabled and the dreamers. There were mothers of slain black boys and cops and generals. There were independents and Republicans. There was top-notch entertainment.

Of course, not all was peace and love. Poor Debbie Wasserman Schultz had to walk the plank. I felt sorry for her myself. The head of the DNC is supposed to try to end up with the most viable candidate and I think she thought Hillary Clinton was that person. The Republican leadership would have done the same if they could have. And, in addition, I expect Debbie was biased in favor of the lifelong Democrat rather than the man who often complained about the D's and became one only at the last minute yet still wanted to mold the party more to his own liking.

And we had the disaffected Bernie Believers. They seemed to come to the convention thinking they could still pull it off though it had all been over but the shouting since June. They strike me as a bunch of spoiled whiners but then I've been involved in politics for decades and I've faced my own heartbreaks along the way. That's life, kids, suck it up. Some will probably vote for Trump out of spite because they didn't get their way. Some will go home and give up the whole political business. But most will vote for Hillary, just as those of us who were Hillary supporters last time, jumped on the Obama bandwagon.

Over all though, the drumbeat of togetherness drowned out the few sour notes at the convention. And that was the theme of the week - Stronger Together - and we are, aren't we? We're stronger when we don't hate each other and when we don't blame each other and when we don't resent each other. America is stronger when billionaires like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates care about whether poor children are fed and housed and educated. America is stronger when we care about our police officers and our young black boys, when we respect every religion that flourishes here, and when we sympathize with Latino families who fear they'll be torn apart by a knock on the door.

Yes, the United States has problems it needs to fix. I agree with Bernie Sanders that the worst of these is income inequality. It is the working people who don't see a bright future for their kids because the rich are soaking up all the nation's wealth who are most resentful....and who can blame them? But we can't just write off big banks and corporate owners and insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. Instead, we need to regulate them so that we give them no choice but to be part of the solution whether that is freeing our young people from crushing student loans or improving Obamacare so that everyone has healthcare or re-building our infrastructure for the 21st century or curing diseases.

And, yes, we have problems abroad but fixing them takes togetherness as well. We need our allies to defeat ISIS. We need them to get a grip on climate change. We need NATO to show Russia a united front. I don't know enough about trade agreements to know if they are good or bad or some of each. I doubt if most of you do either. Would everything have been fine and dandy economically if we'd never signed on to NAFTA? Well, we know jobs were leaving to go overseas for cheap labor before we ever heard of NAFTA. We know we had large trade imbalances pre-NAFTA. So would we have been better or worse off. I have no clue which is why I guess I have to trust the people who presumably do.

So, we've seen both conventions now and the stark differences between the conventions, the parties and the candidates should make for a pretty easy decision for most people. I want a president who is judicious and knowledgable and solid. I want someone who does her homework and studies before the test. What I don't want is a fly-off-the-handle guy who wings it.

Seems to me those are our two choices: steady-as-she-goes Hillary or half-cocked Donald.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Donald Trump Comes To Bring Us Into the Light

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My God, after watching most of the Republican Convention last week, I wanted to say, "just shoot me" at the picture of this sad, pathetic thing our country has evidently become - a shadow of our former confident, courageous selves. No longer admired or respected by anyone in the world. Americans are sleeping in the streets and lining up at soup kitchens. Hardly anyone has a job. We're forced by our autocratic, unconstitutional president to have health insurance. We're lucky we have Trump to warn us of all the dangers we face.

It's so scary, we're afraid to celebrate the summer with outdoor barbeques because we know there are vicious immigrants and brutal terrorists and Black Lives Matter thugs behind every bush and our poor police are too intimidated to help us if we call. We might be able to defend ourselves if Obama doesn't confiscate all our weapons first.

We are being screwed by everybody. China and Japan, Germany and England. Certainly Mexico and even Canada. Iran, for sure and Iraq and Syria and Libya and Egypt. And NATO. That's because our leaders are all stupid and wimpy, loathe to use threats or nukes or torture, even when they are clearly called for. We've let our military deteriorate so, they probably couldn't fight off an attack from Monaco, which is the smallest country in the world besides Vatican City.

It very very sad to realize what a pitiful nation America is now. Ronald Reagan thought it was Morning in America; Donald Trump thinks the clock is about to strike Midnight.

But thank heavens, we have him to save us. As he says himself he is the only man who can fix all the things that are wrong with our country.

His answer seems to be to put America in a bubble. We will build a physical wall to keep out immigrants. We will build a virtual wall to keep out Muslims. We will build an economic wall to keep out globalism.

It will be a whole new world with Trump at the helm. Whatever we've done in the past is now moot. We may decide to default on our debts. (Bankruptcy holds no stigma for the Donald). We will deny the trade agreements that have been negotiated by our government. We will renege on our promises to defend our NATO allies. We will do whatever it takes to protect our interests. Trade agreements and treaties and accords be damned!

We were promised something special for the Republican convention. It would be glitzy and glamorous. Instead we got aging teenage heartthrobs (Scott Baio) and soap opera stars and the 441st best female tennis player. We got less that enthusiastic endorsements from former rivals like Marco Rubio and Rick Perry. We got a betrayal by Ted Cruz and who among us was surprised by that? And Trump kids....lots and lots of Trump many of them I lost count. All of them sleek and glossy and extremely well educated and well-spoken....pretty much what you'd expect from billionaire kids who've had every advantage in life (except for that somewhat off-putting picture of a son triumphantly holding a killed elephant's tail aloft.) Maybe knowing what his father has done to the Republican party, it was a snarky symbol of the GOP elephant.

I found it passing strange that when part of Melania's speech seemed to be plagiarized, it was from Michelle Obama, for Pete's sake. And Ivanka's speech was closer to one you'd expect from the Democrat convention. Affordable child care, early childhood education, equal pay for equal work? Huh? First I'd heard any of that from the R's!

No, the Republican base were more into chanting "Lock Her Up" than "Equal Pay for Equal Work. They reminded me of nothing so much as a lynch mob wanting an execution without a trial. So much for the Constitution.

It was all ugly and depressing.

I hope next week brings us more light and more optimism and more love and for god's sake, a little more courage.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Living in a Prison of Fear

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I believe this is absolutely true. Think of every time America has fallen away from its principles. It was always about fear. We killed and then collected the remains of Native American tribes and put them on what we called reservations but what were really refugee camps, not because we hated them but because we feared them. We first kept African-Americans as slaves, then isolated them from white society, not because we hated them but because we feared them. We put Japanese-Americans in internment camps because we feared them. We imprisoned and tortured and humiliated Muslims, not because we hated them, but because we feared them. Hate is but an extension of fear.

And now we seem to fear and hate one another and Donald Trump is the fear leader. Once again, because of fear, America says, "principles, be damned!" Fear is why we want to build a border wall. Fear is why we want to ban Muslims. Fear is why we want to carry guns and shoot each other at the drop of a hat.

Black people are afraid of cops. Cops are afraid of Black Lives Matter. Fear is what causes both sides to over-react so the fear, and then, the over-reaction grows and reaches ever more dangerous levels as fear feeds on itself.

Most of this started with 911, of course. Americans were stunned because we'd never faced such a large scale, and successful from the terrorist's point of view, attack on our own soil before. Our reaction was nothing to be proud of. We rushed to buy duct tape and bottled water and emergency food supplies. We cancelled our vacation plans to Las Vegas. We stockpiled weapons. As if any of that would do any good when a plane crashes into a building.

But, worst of all, we gave up on America. We couldn't afford those values we had so cherished in the past - due process, habeas corpus, legal counsel, innocent until proven guilty, ban against torture. These were the ideals America was founded upon but we cast them overboard in our fear. We hurried to create a huge, new, secretive agency called, tellingly, Homeland Security. Homeland - I hate that word. I don't even like to say it. We acquiesced to having our privacy violated. After all, what's a little surveillance among friends?

We ignored reality which is often what fear causes people to do. How likely are you to be attacked by a terrorist? Not as likely as that you'll be killed by falling furniture....or shot by your drunken neighbor. Experts assured us that torture didn't work. It rarely elicits actionable information but we water-boarded and rubbed feces in faces and made people crawl on all fours by means of collars and leashes. We didn't even care whether it was effective or not. It was more about vengeance than truth. How many new radical Muslims do you suppose the pictures from Abu Ghraib created?

Now we not only live in fear but what you might call our "victims" do as well. Muslims are now afraid of us because hate crimes against them have increased. And we don't always even bother to find out if they really are Muslims. Hey, a brown-skinned man in a turban is close enough although he's a Hindu, not a Muslim.

We assume Latinos are illegal though many of them have lived in America longer than we have. They are an elemental, and growing, part of our culture and that scares many of us.

And, African-Americans, of course. Since the beginning, we have been afraid of African-Americans and we create our own reality. Our discrimination stokes their anger to the boiling point. How can we be surprised? Read the report about Ferguson, MO. and get back to me on that. Read the details about Flint, Michigan. Read the statistics about who we imprison and why and for how long.

I believe and always will that the horrendous treatment received by our First Family is a product of racism. It was anathema to envision a black man in the White House so that people like Trump and his followers tried to deny his very American-ness. The Obamas, all of them, have represented our country with pride and dignity and grace. We used to tell ourselves that we were a post-racial society but in the face of an African-American president, it turned not to be true. Judging from the current political campaign, if Hillary becomes president, I believe we'll discover we're not post-sexist either.

"The land of the free and the home of the brave."

Sad to say, not so much in the 21st century when we live in a fear prison of our own making.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

America Can't Stand If We Don't Get a Grip on Hate

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I asked on a Facebook post today: "can anyone actually parrot the NRA's assertions that the more guns Americans have, the safer we are" with a straight face? After watching the blood running in our streets for the last few years - cops killing members of the public, African-Americans in most cases. Amazing how the old saying - "wanted: dead or alive" applies differently to the races with "alive mostly meaning whites and "dead mostly meaning blacks".

But the next day, it's a different story. A sniper, taught to be deadly by our own military targets police officers, killing five of them and wounding several more.

And the next day, its a toddler killing his father or a father killing is son or a mother killing her daughters.

The following day, it is theater-goers dying or celebrants in a night club or classrooms full of children or churches full of the devout

Or is is a neighbor killing his neighbor or a gang member killing another gang-member...or perhaps an innocent child who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The next day it is a jealous husband killing his estranged wife or maybe it is your depressed brother killing himself.

I hear talk of revolution all the time. We have to have these guns because we very well may have to fight our government. You know, that government that's taking all our freedoms? We will not tolerate being enslaved by the authorities! We love us some Bundy clan, But if you are one who believes this way, then you should feel a sense of kinship with the shooter in Dallas and with the Black Lives Matter crowd. They are pushed to exactly the point you say you are being pushed to. They see themselves being killed for no crime that deserved the death penalty...or perhaps any crime at all. They see a government that has turned on them.

But, oh, ho, this isn't how most of you feel at all. You've flipped your position. Now, you are all in favor of the government in the guise of the cops. You support the authorities. They are the good guys (and most of them are good guys). It is the bitter revolutionaries who are wrong....not like when YOU spout those seditious slogans!

Present day America is awash in hate and violence. I listen to the Patriot Channel and discover that as a liberal, I hate cops. I sympathize with radical Muslims. I support a president who probably IS a Muslim! I want to ban ALL guns and confiscate the ones people already have. I spit on the American flag. I hate Jesus. I want totally open borders - terrorists and Mexicans and whoever else - come one, come all.

I assume the conservative radio hosts know they are spewing the purest kind of bullshit but obviously, the majority of their listeners don't. They hate me because this is what they think I am though this characterization is wrong in every instance. I know this because I hear them every day.

Our politics have become the Hunger Games. Close to half of us loathe our own president. We no longer prefer one candidate; we despise the opposition. Well, naturally, because they don't just want to institute different policies that we disagree with, they literally want to destroy America. Donald Trump and Ted Nugent and some of the others walk right up to the line of encouraging their fans to kill their save our country.

I don't see how America can stand with this much animus and lust for killing swirling around.