Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When The Truth Is Too Dangerous


Image result for collusion            Image result for collusion  

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

                                    Image result for poll syria 2013 2017 democrats republican

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.