Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When The Truth Is Too Dangerous


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I've always thought of myself as a practical, down-to-earth person. I don't generally believe in fantasies (even religious ones) or conspiracy theories. Do I think corruption exists?  Oh, absolutely, there is plenty of under-handed corruption that goes on in the world but I'm talking about big league conspiracy, the kind that form the basis for so many novels like The Manchurian Candidate. I'm talking about the kind of conspiracies that could cause a war or a governmental meltdown. I find the people who believe 911 was an inside job, the brainchild of Bush and Cheney, to be utterly ridiculous. I find the people who believe Obama was a secret Muslim, a traitor working to hand the U.S. over to the Muslim Brotherhood, to be totally nonsensical.
There was one conspiracy in my lifetime that I believe was such a case and that was the assassination of President Kennedy. I never thought we Americans were told the true story behind that tragedy and we probably never will, at least not in my lifetime.
Why? Not because our government didn't care but because the information would have been so explosive no one could have predicted the aftermath. Was it Cuba? If we'd known for sure, nothing would have satisfied the American people except blasting that island off the face of the earth. Was it Russia? Once we were forced to face that fact, there would have been nothing for it but to go to war with a nuclear state. So I believe the powers-that-be at the time decided the best course of action was to bury the truth deeply to avoid the catastrophic consequences that would have resulted from such a revelation.
I believe were are exactly at that point again. I think the evidence is overwhelming that the Trump administration colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. There is evidence galore of the contacts between the Trump campaign and the Putin people. I believe our entire leadership knows what happened - from the FBI to the CIA to the Republicans to the Democrats. The list of Trumpers who were intimate with the Russians (and later lied about it) is beyond any possibility of coincidence. We have Stone and Manafort and Flynn and Sessions and Kushner and the Trump sons and Miller. Some of them were working for and taking money from Russia even as they worked on the campaign, such as Flynn, who the Trump administration made National Security Director, in a position to attend every ultra-classified meeting. Did they even vet him? Would he have passed inspection if they had? We don't know because they refuse to turn over any documents regarding the situation.
The story of Flynn struck me as bogus from the start. The General was fired as National Security Director for supposedly lying to Vice-President Pence but at that point, the administration had known about Flynn's contacts with Russia and Turkey for over three weeks and Pence certainly must have known because he was head of the transition team and had been given a letter by Elijah Cummings, warning him about Flynn's background. And it raises the question: if Trump knew and knew Flynn was lying to Pence, then why didn't the president inform him? I expect the answer is that Pence knew the truth all along. (Pence, our see-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil Number Two).
So, we are in roughly the same place as after the Kennedy assassination only this is even worse. At that time, if we'd been told the truth, we would have directed our fury outward at another country. (Although we did have militant right-wingers back then too who detested Kennedy). We are far from that same country today. We are now so divided that both sides are dug into their foxholes. We have our own news sources and we all think we know the difference between real news and "fake" news. 
One side will swear to their souls that Donald Trump is a hero, savior of the working class, sent to America directly by Jesus, being persecuted by a globalist cabal of millionaires and billionaires (except his own millionaires and billionaires, of course).
The other side, my side, believe in their hearts that he is a corrupt wannabe-oligarch like Putin, a liar and a scammer turning our country into a fascist haven as we watch. Even traitor isn't too strong a term for us.
So, this time, we would turn our on fire on each other. What does that mean? Would there be an actual revolution with blood running in the streets? Very likely. Our loathing of one another is so powerful, I don't think we would hold back. Who would the police follow? Who would the army follow? Who would win and what would the end look like?
I don't think our leaders know and I don't think they want to know. So, they all dither around and pretend they are doing serious investigation but they are really not.  They let out bits and pieces but no smoking gun. In the end, I think they will tamp it down just enough to muddle through without a civil war. They'll try to keep Trump in check. They'll hold their breath for four years (or maybe he'll get impeached for something else, like conflicts of interest, God knows, there are enough grounds) and hope that Americans come to their senses by 2020. 
Then they'll heave a sigh of relief at having dodged a lethal bullet.                                                                 


                                                     


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Retreating To Our Safe Spaces

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I've been called a snowflake more times than I can count in the last couple of years. Sentimental depictions like the one above are probably part of the reason why. Compassion is not an admired quality among conservatives. They think liberals are a bunch of squishes because they care about little kids shot in their schools and wolf families being gassed in their dens and immigrant mothers being pulled away from their terrified children and yes, the Earth itself.

Ya' gotta' be tough to make it as a Right-Winger. If you boo-hoo about things like toddlers drinking lead-laden water, you're too simpy to be considered a good conservative. If seeing birds covered in oily goo makes you sick at your stomach, you're a sissy libtard. If you worry about climate change and hungry children going without school lunches and Americans losing their healthcare, why, then you need to take your coloring book and crayons to your safe space and let the right handle the hard stuff.

They can shrug off frightened children in refugee camps and shot toddlers and deported fathers and young black boys dying in the street because, don't you know, all those people are scary and we have to think of our own self-protection. It seems to me, they are the ones who need to go to their safe space. They can build barricades around it and take their guns in with them. They can allow in only white people.

I don't consider myself a snowflake. I stand ready to face the problems of the country and the world, and deal with them but I will admit to being absolutely bewildered by what has happened to my country. I used to think the vast majority of people I knew in my youth were pretty nice. They weren't all saints or heroes but they were decent people. Now it seems that many us have gone from empathy for the world around us to completely uncaring about anyone but ourselves.

Were some people always so hateful and they just got sick of holding it in? Is what we're living through now some kind of backlash against what is considered political correctness? Have we always been this way but now social media gives us a platform to say anything we please? Some of what I read on Facebook is so vicious, it leaves me shaking my head. Who are these people? Where did they come from?

I've never been one of those "America is Perfect" patriots. We often been a long way from perfect but generally we tried to be leaders in helping the planet solve its most perplexing problems. When did we turn against education. When did science become a bad word?

Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970 - Republicans were environmentalists then too. Later in 1970, we celebrated the first Earth Day. Before the year was over, we created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. These were all popular with a broad cross-section of America.

I can hardly believe that less than 50 years later, we elected a government that is in a full-fledged retreat into ignorance. They've cut the budget and the staff of the EPA. They are once again allowing energy companies to pour their pollution into our waterways. They want sell off public lands and even privatize our national parks. They are probably going to end the Endangered Species Act. I could go on but it is too depressing.

In 2015, after years of negotiations, the nations of the world came together to sign the Paris Agreement, a pact to lower emissions and cut CO2 levels in an effort to slow climate change, which 96 percent of all the world's scientists believe is a real thing.

But the Trump Administration pooh-poohs climate change and is considering whether the U.S. should pull out of the Agreement. China, which has long yearned to be the most powerful nation on earth, is standing by, ready to take our places as the movers and shakers on climate change if we renege.

Abandoning the fight against climate change is just another way for conservatives to take their crayons to a safe space. Unfortunately, dirty air and water will follow them there.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

It's Easier If You Don't Have To Think

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To me, this chart is the starkest illustration of the state of American politics today.  In 2013, when President Obama was contemplating bombing Syria over their use of chemical weapons on their own people, 38 percent of Democrats approved, as did 22 percent of Republicans. In 2017, when Trump actually bombed Syria for using chemical weapons, Democratic opinion barely changed - 37 percent approved. But suddenly, Republican approval climbed to 86 per cent, based solely on who was president at the time, although the 2013 attack was actually many times more deadly than the one in 2017.

Furthermore, Republicans are now on record as giving their president kudos for finally doing something Obama refused to do. No, Obama wanted to do it but he took the question to Congress (which Republicans then were adamant that he should do - the Constitution and all, you know) but Congress withheld their authorization. Now that it's Trump, who did not go to Congress prior to bombing, it is perfectly fine with his supporters.

Many people say that there isn't a nickel's worth of difference between the parties. They're wrong. It may have been so when I first got seriously involved in politics. Back then the parties had philosophical difference but they were both rooted in a desire to work for the good of the country. Oh, there were the bad apples, as there always will be in any conglomeration of people but for the most part, they were motivated by love of country.

Somewhere along the line, the Republicans changed. The heart and soul of their party was subsumed by a lust for power at any cost.

For the most part, they've used hate to do it. It wasn't enough to disagree with opponents, those opponents had to be demonized. It started with the Clintons. Yes, Margaret, there was a vast right-wing conspiracy and it is still alive and well today. The Clinton years were one long witch hunt. The Republicans threw everything at the wall and finally, Monica Lewinsky stuck. At long last, a reason for impeachment, even if it was trumped-up.

And at the same time, of course, stories circulated about the Clintons that they were drug runners and serial killers. Russia was not the originator of planting "fake news". The Republican right does a pretty damn good job of it themselves.

Then came Obama and conservative hate grew even more intense. Obama was a Kenyan Muslim who wanted to make Sharia law the law of the land. He was a traitor. The R's in Congress stonewalled everything he tried to do. They filibustered on a level never seen before. They shut down the government for the second time in recent history. They let our credit rating be downgraded. They threatened default of our debts and fiscal cliffs. I'm not making all this up. Mitch McConnell, a one-man wrecking ball when it comes to our democracy, has bragged about it.

Take the sequester. It was supposed to be so awful that neither party would allow it to pass. Supposedly, the Democrats were opposed to cuts in social programs while Republicans were opposed to the military cuts. It was supposed to force cooperation. But, surprise, the R's let it go into effect and they lived with it during Obama's administration. Now, they have total power and guess what? The social cuts will be maintained but the military part of the sequester will be overturned. Another battle won by hook or by crook.

Another huge win by McConnell and his crew is the destruction of the Supreme Court. They began by refusing to confirm any of Obama's federal court nominees. Didn't matter who it was. They simply refused to confirm the huge backlog waiting their approval. They practically forced the Democrats to resort to going nuclear if they wanted to get any of Obama's judges confirmed. That set the stage, of course, for what came next. McConnell and the R's simply refused to even interview Judge Merrick Garland, nominated by Obama to fill Antonin Scalia's seat. (You know, Antonin Scalia, about whom all those stories swirled that he was murdered?) The nominal reason was that Obama was in his last year and a president shouldn't be able to nominate a justice so late in his term. (Although we've confirmed 19 justices in a president's final year in office.)

So McConnell held the seat open for ten months until a Republican won the White House and then proceeded to get Trump's nominees confirmed by way of the nuclear option, meaning it no longer takes 60 votes to confirm a SCOTUS nominee. The Supreme Court will now simply be a partisan establishment, just like the rest of our government has become.

And then, after all this, Donald Trump came on the scene and ran the most hateful, vicious campaign I've ever seen in my many years monitoring politics. (I believe sincerely that he had help from the Russians which is rather amusing if Putin thought for one minute that Trump wouldn't throw him under the bus if he thought it was in his best interest. I don't believe The Donald has any loyalty to anyone whose last name isn't Trump.

So, the Republicans hold the levers of power in every area - the states, the Congress, the White House, all the federal agencies, the Supreme Court. Trump ran as a populist but so far, I can't think of one thing the R's have done to help those forgotten working people in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin....  If you know of something, please let me know.

What disturbs me most about all this is that  Republicans are so caught up in the pig wallow of their success that they don't even recognize what they've become.

Democrats felt the same about bombing Syria whether Obama was president or Trump was. But the sheep-like Republicans don't need to think about it. It's all about who made the call and they are perfectly happy to be led either way.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Have They Done For You Lately?

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I assume this was the bottom line for rational Trump voters (not the Deplorables, of whom there are many - they have their own website where they compete with one another to see who can be the most vicious and vile or the Trump evangelicals who believe Trump was sent to us directly by God). I'm talking about the Trump fans who could be your neighbors or co-workers. Decent, kindly people.

I think this was the argument that sold them. Trump told them he was fighting for them, the forgotten Americans, as opposed to the Washington elite. With his populist campaign, he promised to bring back good jobs and eliminate the competitors for those jobs and re-write trade agreements that encouraged industries to outsource. And not only did they elect him, they gave him a Republican congress so he wouldn't be obstructed (as Obama was) by his opponents.

They gave the R's free rein to do all the wonderful things for the working class they said they would do.

By the time, Trump was inaugurated, I gave him almost zero credibility. His whole persona seemed like a giant shell game to me. But....if he'd begun with an infrastructure program, I might have begun to gain a little faith. If instead of trying to take health insurance from millions of Americans as his first project, he'd worked hard to accomplish the goal of jump-starting the economy and creating jobs by rebuilding our crumbling bridges and highways and electrical grid and airports and buildings and transportation systems, I might have started to buy in. And I don't mean by giving ginormous tax breaks to corporations to encourage them to do it. I mean by financing it ourselves, even if we had give up a ship here or a plane there or cut back on rebates for oil companies or tax breaks for billionaire realtors and bankers.

Jobs for real people - I might have considered that he was serious about "fighting for us".

And even now, after health care flopped, the next plan is tax reform. Like the Republican version of the American Health Care Act, tax reform will also benefit primarily the rich.

He brags about United Technology agreeing to move only 1000 jobs out of Indianapolis instead of 1,700 they'd originally slated for lay-off but they are in the process right now of closing their Huntington plant which is another 700 jobs. And Ford and others say their future plans for America were already in the works though Trump is taking the credit. Meantime, he puts a hiring freeze on federal employees, which incidentally, those are jobs too.

I've always thought I'd like to have a real conversation with a Trump supporter. Someone who would actually discuss our different political views. I would ask them what Trump and the Republicans have done so far to assure them that they are fighting for us. Trump's very first executive order raised the amount regular people pay on their mortgages. They've done away with regulations that mandated how much industry could pollute our waterways. They want to end the Endangered Species Act. They passed a law allowing hunters (I hesitate to even call them hunters, which is a name that implies some honor) to kill hibernating bears and gas mother bears and wolves and their cubs in their dens. They want to privatize some of our federally owned lands to open it up to drilling and mining and fracking. They approved both the Keystone and Dakota pipelines against the will of the people who actually live in those areas and fear for their clean water. The saving grace was to be a law that said the pipelines must be made of American steel but, of course, they've withdrawn that order. They've rescinded the regulation that says our employers must pay us overtime. They are adamantly opposed to increasing the minimum wage. They passed legislation that will allow our internet providers to sell every bit of information they have about us. They passed a law that says investment bankers no longer have to work "in the best interest of their customers". These are just things I remember off the top of my head. I'm sure I'm forgetting some important ones.

I'd ask my Trump friend - did you truly believe we'd have a wall and that Mexico would pay for it? I always thought that sounded absurd. And if you wanted illegal immigrants from coming to our country, why wouldn't they start with employers, which is the weakest link in the immigration chain? No jobs, no immigrants. Wouldn't that be cheaper and more humane than dragging people off as they took their kids to school or opened their businesses?

Did you really think their rushed Muslim ban was well thought out? Do we really make America safer by leaving students and grandmothers and sick babies stranded at airports? Are we safer because Muhammed Ali's son was interrogated at the airport....twice....simply because of his name?

I might have started to have a little faith in Trump if he'd appointed people to his cabinet who seemed eager to help their agencies become more responsive and more efficient. Instead he put a bunch of rich foxes in charge of the henhouse. An EPA Director who doesn't believe in climate change. An Education Secretary who doesn't believe in public education. A HHS Director who doesn't believe in health care, especially in the form of Medicare or Medicaid. An Energy Secretary who doesn't believe in energy policy. A HUD Secretary who knows jack shit about public housing. And I think he's up to seven former CEOs of Golden Sachs (the very people he used to call the "global cabal"). There may be others by now. He's barely begun to fill the jobs it takes to run these agencies. Who needs'em? We have too many people already.

If you're interested in seeing what cuts Trump has in his proposed budget to see if you agree with them, here is a list.

Instead of experienced people, America is being managed by Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner (Trump's son-in-law) who  seems to have a finger in every presidential pie, and of course, Ivanka, who will be her father's "eyes and ears" in the West Wing (which I would take to be a little creepy if I worked in the West Wing).

So tell me, Trumpie friend, just out of curiosity, what have he and Republicans done for you lately?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lead Me To The Low Road

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As a Democrat here's what I wish that my fellow Democrats would do -  simply refuse to be involved with the Gorsuch hearings in any way. I wish they'd register their rejection of this theft of a Supreme Court seat by walking out, denying the process their cooperation and their votes. The Republicans have the power to confirm Judge Gorsuch and undoubtedly they will, but at least there would always be an asterisk beside his name due to being given a stolen seat despite the disapproval of the Democrats.

I have nothing personal against Gorsuch and I never have would never have recommended such a strategy two years ago. I doubt I'd agree with the Judge on many issues but I always believed that our constitution gives a president has the responsibility for nominating SCOTUS justices while in office, even ones who aren't my personal cup of tea.

But then, Antonin Scalia died and the Republicans engaged in an astoundingly egregious display of dishonest partisanship regarding President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland for the Court. They could have simply voted him down. They had the votes but instead, they took it to the nth degree of insult by refusing to conduct hearings or even interview him.

Mitch McConnell simply stated that Obama would not be allowed his constitutional privilege in his last year in office. In fact, he took it further by suggesting that if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, they would hold the seat open for four years! Only a Republican, I guess, in Republican eyes, would ever be allowed to choose new justices for the SCOTUS bench.

Now the tables have turned. McConnell intones in that irritatingly unctuous manner he has that the Democrats must stop stonewalling and get with the program of confirming Gorsuch. The Supreme Court needs that ninth justice (unlike the entirety of Obama's last year). Judge Gorsuch, McConnell tells us was overwhelmingly approved when he was nominated as judge - as was Garland. He is extremely highly thought of among his peers - as was Garland. Gorsuch is an good and honorable man - as was Garland. Garland's integrity and honor didn't cut any ice with Old Mitch when the shoe was on the other foot but now, Democrats need to be bipartisan good citizens and confirm Trump's choice. Uh huh.

Michelle Obama said, "when they go low, we go high". It's an honorable philosophy but we've seen how well that technique worked, haven't we? Those who took the low road seemed to always reach the finish line first. While they leveled howitzers at us, we tried to defend ourselves with squirt guns. Not very effective.

So where's that path down to the low road. I'm ready to take it all the way to the end.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Land of the Dumb and Home of the Mean

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I thought when I was in high school, I got an excellent education. (I graduated in 1964). Even the kids who dropped out to go to work in the factories got a thorough grounding in the basics before they turned sixteen. You could have a conversation with a guy who left school and went to work as a punch press operator at General Tire and you might know some things about physics and sociology that he didn't know by virtue of those missing years of education, but over all, he was just as intelligent as you. (Chances were, he was quite a bit smarter than me about math). He watched the news and read the newspapers and knew what was going on in the world around him. We had some less than average bright people then too, of course, but they were the exception rather than the rule.

I don't know what happened in the intervening years but America seems to have gone dumb and mean. And it doesn't have anything to do with i.q. They've chosen to be dumb. They've chosen to be mean. They've chosen to sneer at science and history. They are contemptuous of smart people, like college professors and economists and chemists. I had a Facebook debater tell me the other day that we don't need the arts and sciences anymore. We can figure out our own answers through our own rational thinking. It's safer that way, he said, because you can' trust anything the "Deep State" tells you anyway. The hoax of climate changes proves it. The vast majority of scientists who say they believe climate change is real are being paid off by the "global cabal" and only those few who deny it have integrity.

These are the people who elected Donald Trump despite the big black writing on the wall that was obvious to anyone who wanted to see it. They ignored his corruption, his constant lying, his hateful allegations about his opponents, his lewdness and crudeness and rudeness. They gloried in his cruelty, seeming to think hatefulness is funny....and they followed him right down into the gutter.

Someone on Facebook signed me up to a site called The Deplorables. You have to be approved to join so I assume someone did it as a prank but it has been an eye-opener. To me, these people are the heart and the soul of Trumpism. They glory in the title and try to prove it with everything they say. They seem to compete with one another to see who can be the coarsest. Their language is rife with niggers and skanks and wetbacks and sluts and towel-heads. It is not enough that they hated Obama and Hillary. They want to see them hung or shot or tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. At the very least, they want to see them in handcuffs and orange jumpsuits being led to prison. Presumably, the watchers would throw stones and laugh during the perp walk. One Deplorable said if they hung Hillary and put it on Pay per View, they could raise enough to pay off the national debt.

They revel in outdoing one another in nastiness. I can't even tell you some of the sickening things they say. They truly are the Deplorables. Hillary was absolutely right about them.

They believe Trump can do no wrong. The things they ranted and raved about with Obama are no big deal any more. They no longer care about their president spending millions of taxpayer dollars on luxurious vacations. They no longer care that Trump has played golf nine times in seven weeks. They no longer care if Trump has outdone his predecessors in signing executive orders. Ask them sometime what those executive orders were for and they don't have a clue. They no longer care if he does government business on an unsecured phone or that Steve Bannon has a private server. They exhorted Darrell Issa and Trey Gowdy to keep investigating Benghazi - time and money were no object. But when Trump's first mission in Yemen failed bigly and lost us the life of a Navy SEAL and an expensive plane, hey, it wasn't his fault, nothing to see here.

For all that they love investigations, they want no investigations of President Puffy Butt's Russian connections. Practically every member of Trump's inner circle had communications with the Russians during the campaign and lied about it until they got caught. And yes, Pence lied about knowing about it too. Elijah Cummings himself sent the head of the Transition Team, which happened to be Mike Pence, a letter saying that General Flynn was working for and getting paid by Turkey even as he was attending Presidential Briefs but Pence stood before us, all innocence, and said it was news to him. (The General has since registered, retroactively, as a foreign agent). Flynn got fired for supposedly withholding information from Pence but Trump himself  knew so if he knew, why didn't he tell Pence. The answer is: he probably did.

The Deplorables have bought into Bannon's Deep State myth and wish for nothing more than for Trump's appointees to take a wrecking ball to the agencies of the federal Government. Do they truly believe the country, and they themselves, will be better off when this is done? Do they truly believe Trump is doing it for their sake and the rich won't be the ones to profit from his tax reform and deregulation.

Some how they must have convinced themselves that the FDA and the EPA and the Department of Education and the Food and Drug Administration and the food stamp program and Medicaid and Social Security and OSHA and the National Parks and the Endangered Species Act have never provided them any benefits. They must believe that the diversity that has always defined America is a negative thing.

I sometimes ask them what America will look like if they get their way in everything but none of them have thought that far ahead, or if they have, they can't articulate their vision.

The other day on a conservative website someone said, "hey, you fucking libtard bitch, someone ought to knock your goddamed teeth down your throat". (This wasn't the Deplorable. I've never come out to them because I know they'd instantly block me. They only want to share with their like-minded pals. I want to stay on because I have a kind of sick curiosity about just how low they will go).

We used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Now we seem to have become the land of the dumb and the home of the mean.



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Take Your Unity And.....

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Well, I didn't keep count but I probably said "fuck you" at least 20 times during the course of Trump's speech to a joint session of Congress so that will probably give you a small clue about how it affected me

He modulated his voice somewhat more than he usually does. That's about the only difference I noticed between "presidential" Trump and not presidential Trump. His hateful policies are all the same. His details are as sketchy as ever. His pie in the sky promises still float over a rainbow of unreality. It seems that he equates being presidential with the inability to smile. If smiles were paid for in dollars, he'd be standing in a soup line.

We had to watch his speech punctuated by the fawning smiles and claps of the Bobblehead Twins behind him. Did they coordinate their wardrobes in advance do you suppose?

He's going to try for a new immigration ban that will pass muster with the courts, which means, the administration will have to be a little more careful about semantics....but the bottom line will not change. In fact, we are still causing pain for people who don't deserve it. A teacher who couldn't come to the United States with his students. A girl's soccer team. An elderly Australian children's book writer. Mohammed Ali's son and mother, for God's sake. What any of these people have to do with terrorism in America is absolutely zilch, zero, nada.

His own National Security Adviser tried to convince him to quit using the term "radical Muslim terrorists", saying it wasn't helpful in recruiting the Muslims who are our allies. But he couldn't resist. In fact, he placed special emphasis on those words Radical "Muslim Terrorists". You wonder how long the sane members of his cabinet will stick around when they are so disrespected. (McMaster doesn't even have Open Door privileges to come see Trump).

He still wants to build a wall and  round up millions of illegals....not just criminals, unless you count as the fact that just being here makes you a criminal, which they do. Your guess is as good as mine whether they getting hearings or simply being booted across the border (even non-Mexicans are being dumped in Mexico). You can practically feel the private prison companies salivating at the thought of all the big new prisons that will have to be built to detain them.

His new VOICE (Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement) is absolutely ridiculous. Illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than native Americans but I guess their victims are more worthy of attention than those black kids shot by police (the Justice Department informed us they'd no longer be monitoring police departments with histories of abuse, like Chicago) or victims of drunk white good old boys with guns.

Here are some of the things I remember about his planned spending: $20 billion for the Wall, $54 billion (just a down payment) for defense, a trillion for infrastructure, thousands of new border patrol agents, massive tax cuts across the board (although if you believe the rich and corporations won't get the lion's share, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale). Isn't it amazing how Republicans care so much about the deficit when Dems are in charge but max out the old credit card when the responsibility is on them?

We still don't know about Obamacare. Trump says he's going to give us something that includes more people, is cheaper while offering better coverage than the ACA. (Remember that bridge in Brooklyn?)

I can't help but smile a little when I read articles about how farmers are terrified that they won't have immigrant labor to help them pick their crops. Or poor white Appalachians who are deathly (yes, deathly, is the word) that they are going to lose their healthcare. These are all people who voted for Trump. Maybe they should have given that decision a little more thought.

I thought the wife of the Seal who died in Yemen was one of the saddest things I've ever seen. It started out all right but it went on and on, like a kind of torture. It looked to me like the poor woman was thinking, "oh, God, please, let this be over." I actually thought she might be going to faint.

And what did Mr Trump believe the spirit looking down on his grieving wife was thinking - "gee, wow, what an ovation!" No, Donald, that would be you that puts cheering crowds above everything else in your life.

We got a few little tips of the hat to unity. Yep, now that the Republicans have it all their own way, they think it would be great if we could just get over this petty divisiveness that has ruled the U.S. for the last 8 years.

Ain't gonna' happen. I despise everything Donald Trump stands for, everything he wants to do to my country to make it seem small and backward and cruel.

There will be no unity from me, Mr. Trump.




Monday, February 20, 2017

Not So Brave; Not So Free

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I'm ashamed of my president and ashamed of my country for electing him and the Republicans. I'm ashamed of how mean so many of us are in 2017. What gutless cowards we have become in our irrational fear of Muslims and Mexicans and anybody else that differs from us. 9/11 totally broke our spirit. We are not the country we used to be or the people we used to be. Our determination to help the world become a better place is all but gone. Our dedication to helping struggling people has all but disappeared.

We've become a nation that loves walls now. Common folks want a wall between the U.S. and Mexico ('cause don't you know, Latinos are taking all those lovely dishwashing and tomato picking jobs we are clamoring for). But can't you see, it's no different than the walls the rich put up around their gated communities to keep us out? We are no better than migrant workers to them.

If you cannot find as much compassion in your heart for the brutalized refugee children of Aleppo as you can for a fertilized egg, then I don't want to hear about how you revere the sanctity of life. If you would deny South American children fleeing the death and destruction in their homelands the opportunity for food and a safe place to sleep and medical care, then don't give me any bull about what a loving, motivated Christian you are. If you piss and moan about the amount of your taxes that go to food stamps and Medicaid but you're fine with Donald Trump spending a gazillion dollars a month flitting around in Air Force One, then you're a hypocrite in the first degree. (Remember how you complained about Obama's vacations. Trump has spent almost as much in a month as Obama spent in a year but I guess it doesn't seem so bad now, huh?)

My God is not your God. I'm not sure I even have a God but if there is a Creator, the one I envision does not divide his children up between black and white and brown and red. I think he would feel agony at seeing babies mute from fear and loss. I think he would feel even more agony at those of us who could help but choose not to.

Our president sits in his gilt-encrusted penthouse or his fabulous beach front resort consorting with the rich and power and issues orders that will rip people lives apart without, apparently, giving it a second thought.

He has a rally and tells his followers how happy he is to be among them - his people. But when the rally is over, does he eat with them or sleep with them? No, he flies back to Mar a Lago to the soft beds and fine foods and the uppercrust of our nation and they plot how to sell our national parks and refuse to raise the minimum wage and kill off the endangered Species Act and allow coal companies to once again dump their sludge into our rivers and streams and rescind the regulation that puts a ceiling on how much the banks charge us poor schlumps who sometimes overdraw our checking accounts and repeal the Transparency Law that mandates that corporations must report payments they get from foreign governments and cut school breakfast programs and food stamps. (Yeah, that'll show those lazy bums...most of whom work, incidentally, but don't make enough to support themselves).

We love that his cabinet has almost no experience with the agencies they are expected to oversee and in fact, most likely are hostile to those very organizations. The Education Secretary who hates public schools. The EPA Secretary who despises the EPA. The Health and Human Services Secretary who detests Medicare and Medicaid. The Energy Secretary who sits on the boards of Energy companies. The Labor Secretary who, until he withdrew his name, had nothing but contempt for workers.

So, tell me, Republicans, what about any of this do you find supportive of working people?

Or of any people, really, except those you used to call The Swamp - the Goldman Sachs honchos and the multi-million dollar donors and the lobbyists and the Putin apologists.

We have become people who'd rather believe lies than the truth, people who look down on the poor and adore the rich, people who believe being selfish and hateful will make America great again.




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stolen Election - Illegitimate President

                                                          Image result for general michael flynn russia

I think our election was stolen, plain and simple. Stolen by Russia and the Trump campaign.

We have known for quite some time that Russia hacked our election to favor Donald Trump. We know that they fed "fake news" about Hillary to publications and programs such as the Enquirer and Info Wars and others. Stupid stuff like her failing health and the child sex ring she ran out of the basement of a D.C. pizza parlor. Stories so crazy that no one with a semi-rational mind would believe them...except Trump supporters did. We know that Russia passed on information to WikiLeaks, who then released it into the public...and that Donald Trump used this information frequently to criticize and excoriate Hillary. We know that high Russian officials toasted themselves and high-fived each other at the news that Trump had won. We know that Mike Flynn (now Trump's national security adviser), Paul Manafort (former campaign director) and Roger Stone (casual adviser and long-time Clinton hater) all had close ties to the Russian government.

All these things have been known.

But we have more recently learned that there was way more to it than that. After we put sanctions on Russia for their hacking, we expected paybacks because that's always the way it is with Russia. But nothing happened. Putin, that ever-laid back dictator, said no big deal and invited American children in Russia to attend a Christmas party at the Kremlin. Wasn't that sweet?

As you might imagine, this made our own government go hmmm. Why the turnabout from Russia's usual modus operandi when they feel they've been disrespected? Our intelligence services began an investigation.

Now both the Washington Post and New York Times have reported (with deep sourcing from multiple national security officials who've read the transcripts) that General Flynn had been in contact with the Russian government and essentially told them to let the sanctions go because it would all get fixed after Donald Trump was sworn in.

Now mind you, this was before Trump was president - a private citizen, Michael Flynn, consorted with a foreign power to undermine our own government's foreign policy decisions. I'm not a lawyer but if this isn't against the law, it should be. In fact, it seems close to treason to me.

The Post and Times further reported that this wasn't the beginning of a new, wonderful relationship between the Trump administration and Putin but rather, it was on-going and had been since the campaign. Well, of course. Who is surprised about that? Trump sometimes got the WikiLeaks information before anyone else. It has always struck me as a joint effort.

But Flynn denied, denied, denied. He'd only called Russia to wish them Merry Christmas and extended sympathy for a downed plane.

And Reince Preibus, Mike Pence and Sean Spicer all swore to the truthfulness of Flynn's statements. Now that we know they weren't true, we have to decide whether Flynn lied to them or they lied to us. Which do you think it is? Faced with so much evidence from people who've actually read the transcripts, Flynn now allows to how, maybe he just forgot.

Lastly, there is the matter of the dossier compiled by a former British M-16 agent. Some of it has now been verified. Not the slimy stuff about ugly sex acts but the more serious part. The accusation that the Trump administration worked in concert with a foreign government, one of our main enemies, to sabotage our election to get the Russian's pet politician placed in the White House.

Now the question is: what do we do about it. This is the kind of story a top novelist might write. A movie could be made out of it. America's election stolen by Russia. Do we just let it pass and pretend it didn't happen.

My guess is that is exactly what we will do. We'll make the calculation that the harm done to our democracy if we flat out admit we were snookered by the Russians would just be too great to accept. We'll decide that the chaos and uproar, hell, maybe revolution, caused by the Trump true believers would be intolerable.

And so, we'll go along with our illegitimate president.






Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Bottom-Feeders Are Us

                                                             Image result for bottom feeder

I've always lived the life of a bottom-feeder. Oh, maybe, not the very bottom-est. I never had to sleep under a bridge or visit a soup kitchen. In fact, I've never been on any kind of assistance but that was because I was lucky about having parents who were both able and willing to help.

I guess what I mean about being a bottom-feeder, is that life for us is always insecure. We can go along okay for a while but it only takes a small catastrophe to plunge us into disaster. An unexpected lay-off is almost life or death, or at least eviction or repossession. It takes us three or four months to bounce back financially after the auto insurance premium is paid. Our heart sinks when we need to buy a new tire (bottom-feeders usually buy their tires one at a time)

We're are at the low end of the trickle-down scale of economics. After the fat cats get their fat chunk and the medium cats get their medium chunk, we are down here here waiting for the crumbs that sometimes drift our way (or not).

If you've never lived our lives, you have no idea how much the deck is stacked against us by society and the powers that be.

At one time or another, as a single Mom, I experienced most of the humiliations of being a bottom feeder. I've bought cars from "buy here-pay here" places, knowing I was probably purchasing a piece of previously wrecked junk that would be lucky to last much beyond the 30 day warranty. And knowing, I'd probably still have to pay because the car dealers have lawyers write up those contracts so the sellers have every advantage. I've known people who had their wages garnished or had their taxes attached paying on cars that blew up long ago, but what choice do they have? You have to have a vehicle to work. (The owners of cheap apartment complexes are notorious for this as well). And you know, if they take you to court, they can pile on a whole bunch of interest and penalties for "defaulting".

I've written bad checks in my younger years. Yep, I knew it was going to cost me a stiff overdraft fee but I had to balance that with letting the electricity get shut off and the even stiffer re-connect fee they'd charge. Overdraft fees have continued to go up and up (and so have re-connect fees). I think it is about $35 to bounce a check today. I have over-draft protection now that I don't need it. You still have to pay through the nose if you overdraw. The only difference is that they don't send out those letters that made you feel ashamed and worthless (even though you knew you'd probably be doing it again because.....life).

Because, yeah, I know what it's like to have this or that utility turned off. Once my gas was disconnected when my son was a baby. My Dad happened to come in to see John and I dressed in snowsuits. He was furious and immediately went and paid my bill and said to never let it happen again. I knew I could go to him or Mom but I just hated to look like such a loser.

Of course, there are late fees for every kind of bill - utilities and house payments and car loans and credit cards. The more you struggle to pay, the more they charge you...and if you're habitually late (even if you pay every month), they'll probably raise your interest rate and you'll pay through the nose even more.  Because, you know, you have to be punished for being a dead beat and you'll never get ahead of the system.

Did you know that if you let your car insurance expire, even for a short while, then go in to have it re-instated, you'll have to carry expensive high risk insurance until you prove you're a solid citizen again?

Did you know that if you owe the I.R.S. $10,000 or more, they'll make a deal with you but if you owe under $10,000, you have to pay back every penny? Why is that, do you suppose? I knew a man once who owned a restaurant and got behind on his taxes. He hired a tax attorney and settled for 10 cents on the dollar. He paid $8,000 on an $80,000 debt. When I got in trouble with the Department of Revenue, I owed $7,000. They put a lien on my house and my in-law's house (because we'd given them an acre in a life estate). I sold the house to get out from under that debt.

A few months later, they returned $700. They said I'd paid too much. I called them to ask if they were sure and they said yes. Several weeks later, they informed me that unfortunately, I did  owe that $700 after all - plus penalties and interest. They told me I could appeal the ruling. I lost. I was furious and told them if they wanted that money to steal it like the thieves they were. Within 48 hours, they'd sent a wage garnishment to my job.

It is easy to get discouraged when you're a bottom-feeder because it seems as if the people who make the rules have a boot on your neck and the more you struggle to crawl out of the hole you're in, the harder they press.

So, honestly, I can see the appeal Donald Trump had for some of the kind of people I'm talking about. He called them forgotten. He told them he was on their side and he was going to help.

I think they were conned by a charlatan. I think he enjoys pressing his boot on people's necks even as he pretends to care. Not one thing he's done so far will help the bottom-feeders, in fact, their lives will be worse.

But I do understand why they want to hope.









Friday, February 3, 2017

A Merger of State and Corporate Power

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Every morning when I wake up since the election, one of my first thoughts is: "oh, my God, we put Donald Trump in the White House". This thought is immediately followed by a sick feeling in my stomach.  

I've heard so many talking heads try to analyze Trump's strategy for governance when it comes to foreign policy but I have yet to divine any method to his madness. To me, it seems that he simply shoots from the hip with no forethought and very little advice from experts. He fights with Mexico and Australia (Australia! Seriously!). He meets with Therese May, then undermines her as soon as she's out of his sight. He threatens Iran and China. His foreign policy appears to be all over the map. I can't make heads or tails of the overarching theme of it and people a lot smarter than me don't seem to be able to either.

In fact, in my view, Trump isn't especially interested in foreign policy except for building his reputation as a tough guy. He doesn't appear patient enough to do his due diligence regarding his Presidential Daily Briefs. From what I've read, he didn't have a top level meeting regarding the disastrous Yemeni attack. Instead, he and a few of his top level honchos discussed it over dinner. He signed off on it and then didn't bother coming to the Situation Room to see how it turned out. I believe he leaves it to his advisers, then signs whatever is put in front of him.

Because he really isn't that interested. His real agenda, his passion, revolves around business and money. That's where his heart and his mind are. He is all about giving business everything it wants and getting handsomely rewarded in return. (We won't know the extent of that since he's never released his taxes).  Luckily, that dovetails perfectly with what the Republicans have always wanted as well. How can business pay less and rake in more?

Look at his cabinet nominees. His pick for Education Secretary, billionaire, is all about removing funding from the public schools and sending it to for-profit schools. His nominee for Labor Secretary, billionaire, looks for ways to take pay and benefits from workers. He's been sued several times for cheating his own employees. Ideally, they could replaced with automation. Human beings can be so irritating and demanding, don't you know?  His choice for Health and Human Services wants to repeal Obamacare and privatize Medicare and Medicaid. His HUD selection believes poor people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. He has six ex-Goldman Sachs executives (millionaires and billionaires) in his cabinet. You remember Goldman Sachs, right? That's the bank he excoriated Hillary Clinton for even speaking to. Back then he called them a "global cabal". 

That's only part of them but do you see a pattern here? His administration is all about business. I think some of the crazy foreign policy stuff (the wall, immigration) is simply a distraction from his real goal, which is to make his cronies and himself pots of money while he's president.

How ironic is it that so much of the working class came to see this charlatan as their savior?

One of his very first Executive Orders was one to allow the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota pipeline to go forward. Oh, well, Native Americans are used to getting shafted, they'll probably take it in stride. When he had a come to Jesus meeting with the biggest CEOs in the country, it was mainly about Donald promising to give them big league tax relief and even bigger league reduction of regulations. He recently had a get-together with Big Pharma. He was going to go in there and by God, get the costs of medicines reduced. Instead, again, he promised to lower their taxes and lessen their regulations. 

And meanwhile the Republicans are busily working on the other end to reach the same end point. They've written legislation that will gut Dodd-Frank and once again, allow the big banks to work their will even if it risks our economy. They removed the rules for transparency that used to guide Big Oil. They gleefully talk about turning our parks, rivers and mountains over to the miners, the drillers and the frackers. What's an earthquake....or 50....a day? Of course, they are still working on a way to repeal Obamacare and leave millions without healthcare. 

So this is what I think Trump is really all about...and the Republicans too - a merger of state and corporate power, which is what Mussolini called fascism.

We have sold our country down the river.

 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

This Way Be Monsters

                                     Image result for women's march

One of the criticisms I've heard about the women's marches is the inability of many to articulate exactly what it is they are protesting.

That's because for most of us, there is not a single over-riding issue that drives us. Rather it is an amorphous atmosphere of concern and fear that includes so many disagreements with the Trump administration that is difficult to narrow it down to a couple of clear-cut matters. It is sort of like dealing with a snowstorm. You can't see every individual snowflake, you just know you're in a dangerous blizzard.

Yes, it is reproductive rights and women's health but beyond that it is the general view of women as second-class citizens that this administration seems to hold. They dismiss Planned Parenthood as if that organization hadn't helped millions of us obtain vital health care over the years. They put only two women in top slots in the cabinet (one being the wife of the Senate Majority Leader). There are a few others in lower positions, mostly ex-members of Fox. And, of course. the inimitable Omarosa, a choice so laughable you have to wonder if Trump picked her purposefully to show us our standing in the scheme of things.

On Trump's very first day in the Oval Office, he signed a ban on federal money going to international groups that perform or provide information on abortions which shows his priority. The picture of him signing this order regarding women's health, surrounded by men only, went viral. It said very clearly - "we will control your behavior."  

According to their plans, the administration is planning eliminate all 25 of the Department of Justice's Violence Against Women grant programs.

Repealing Obamacare will hurt women in many different ways. They would go back to paying more for insurance simply for being female. It would put an end to free contraception. Unless the Republicans manage to maintain it without the funding that comes from the individual mandate, the pre-existing portion of the law would disappear.

He has promised a Supreme Court Justice who would vote to overturn Roe v Wade.

And all this simply applies to generic women. There are special stresses for African-American women and Muslim women and Latina women and gay women. Will the DACA Dreamers be deported back to Mexico despite being promised safety if they played by the rules and revealed themselves? Will their families be deported? What particular discriminations will Muslim women face in this new Trump era? For black women, is the hope of criminal justice reform gone? Will it be even more likely that their sons will be "profiled" as criminals? Are the marriages of gay women safe? Are their adoptions safe? Will their civil rights protections be eliminated in the name of "religious freedom"?

And what about the economy? Trump promised to drain the swamp but his cabinet choices are the swampiest of the swamp dwellers. He excoriated Hillary for giving speeches to Goldman Sachs. Now he has six of their ex-employees in his inner circle. More millionaires and billionaires than any cabinet ever, most of whom detest the very agencies they've been hired to lead, and don't have a clue how "the other half (well, actually, other 90%) live.

One of Trump's very first moves was to make home mortgages more expensive. Was this what he meant by "defending the workers"? His plan for the infrastructure is not the typical funding we've seen in the past (the one the Dems tried to get passed for 8 years but were stonewalled by the Republicans). Rather, it is specially designed as multi-million dollar breaks for the companies involved.

Trump tells half of every story. He crows about taking on the corporations and forcing them to bring their jobs to the United States. ("Buy American, Hire American" is his motto, he says, but so far he hasn't taken his own his advice. His own products are still made overseas and he bought foreign steel for his own hotels. And he applied to hire foreign workers for Mar a Lago and his resort in California.) Do as I say and not as I do? But for every action, there is a equal and opposite reaction. Does he think no company or country will retaliate in a tit for tat payback? What if China put a 35% surcharge on the products we buy from them? Would they continue to buy our grain as they do now? Would a trade war really make us more prosperous?

The environment looks to be a huge loser in the Trump administration. Climate change has been purged from the EPA's website. The new president announced plans to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Pipeline (though it is rumored he has an investment in the firm that is building it). His buddies are licking their lips over opening our mountains and waters and national parks to oil and chemical and mining companies. Who do we think will benefit from this? Will it be us or will it be the bigwigs in these corporations? The Keystone Pipeline ships tar sand oil for sale to China, not to America. Will wildlife have a prayer against cattle interests?

One of Trump's first actions was to institute a federal hiring freeze, even at the V.A., although it is already understaffed. Who do you think will bear the brunt of the loss of these jobs? Do you really believe it will be the upper echelon? No, I assume it will be the janitors and the clerks and the electricians and the painters and the laundresses.  Is this what he means by creating more jobs for those who've been left behind.

The administration has also moved to diminish the influence of the media. They are going to allow the press pool to stay in the White House but Trump will choose who gets to be there (in the past, it was the White House Correspondent's Assn.)  In his first press conference, he refused to take a question from CNN, declaring them "fake news". Four of the first seven questions went to Rupert Murdoch writers. In fact, it is anyone who doesn't parrot his opinions who he considers fake news...when it is actually he and his staff who deal in "alternative facts". The new president appears to be a pathological liar and Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway defend him vigorously regardless of what how untruthful he is.

Whether we like all of them or not, whether we always agree with them or not, a free media is a foundation stone of democracy. No president should be able to shape the media to suit himself and dictate to us what is truth. Has Trump been taking media-managing lessons from Vladimir Putin?

The administration has placed gag orders on several agencies - no communication with the public in the form of press releases, emails, tweets, policy papers. I expect this will change when he gets his own people in place who know what it is allowable to say. When that will be, we don't know. He's been slow off the mark in naming people for his team because he's too busy railing about inauguration numbers and millions of illegals voting for Hillary (else he'd have won the popular vote, dontcha know?)

I didn't mean for this post to be so long and I haven't even talked about foreign policy and his sometimes lunatic pronouncements in that area. I only meant to hit the high points but this is what happens when you lay out your concerns about Trump....there are so many they all run into one another and they finally coalesce into an all-encompassing dread of what the future holds for your country. He is the president. He can force us to go down this road with him....but some of us will be kicking and screaming all the way.