Tuesday, September 12, 2017

An Ounce of Climate Prevention

Climate change deniers often like to say we can't afford to undertake the mitigations necessary to reduce carbon pollution and transition to green energy sources. "It's bad for the economy," they say. Compared to what, I ask. According to initial insurance estimates the cost to repair the damage from hurricanes Harvey and Irma will total $50 to $70 billion dollars (source.)

That's just to repair the damage. It doesn't include having the economies of most of East Texas and much of the entire state of Florida off line for several weeks, which will cost the national economy more tens of billions. Just as predicted, the hotter oceans are producing more and stronger storms that cause more damage than ever before.

Why is it that we cannot afford to take the preventative steps to prevent such catastrophes but we generally seem to find the money to put things back together after them? 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Why the Confederate Statues Have to Come Down

We need to remove all the Confederate statues from public places in the United States. A statue of a person in a public place in our culture is there to honor that person. It is not there just to commemorate history. The people depicted in these statues, people like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Pierre Beauregard, Jeb Stuart and Nathan Forrest were enemies of the United States. What is more, they were traitors. Every one of them took an oath as an officer in the United States Army or as a federal elected official to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States. Every one of them then went on to repudiate and break that oath by waging war against the United States of America. In this war some 620,000 young men were killed. That is more than have fallen in all the other wars in this nation's history combined.

Some say to remove the statues from public parks and squares is an attempt to erase history. Not at all. The statues can go to Civil War and American History museums. The photographs of them can and should appear in textbooks. But we do not commemorate history in this country by erecting statues of our enemies. If so, where are the statues of King George III or General Cornwallis? Where are the public statues of Kaiser Wilhelm, or of Mussolini, Tojo and Hitler, or of Osama bin Laden?

No, we do not bestow honor in this country upon enemies who have sought to harm and destroy it, who have killed our citizens and attempted to conquer our land and destroy our republic. The very idea is an affront to the sacrifice of those who have risked their lives and too often made the ultimate sacrifice to defend it. It is time to drop this pretense. The communities that are removing these statues are doing the right thing. The Confederate statues have to go. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville

I've been asked to comment on the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia.  

Charlottesville shows the Confederate element in the South is still alive and kicking. It's the foundation of their conservatism and why they went Republican and have stayed that way.


Trump's statement saying there was over zealousness on both sides was despicable in putting those demonstrating for love and acceptance on a par with the violence and hate spewed by Nazis, Klansmen and Confederate flag-waving racists.

This is what he said:  "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time."

See reaction to Trump's statement here. Even Republicans like Orrin Hatch and Marco Rubio castigated him for not decrying the hatred and violence of these intrinsically malevolent hate groups. These groups paraded down the street carrying the flags of entities that killed over a million Americans in the Civil War and World War II based on the execrable principle of racial supremacy. They chanted anti-Semitic and racial slurs. Some wore Klan robes. Many wore red "Make America Great Again" hats and chanted Trump's name. Many gave the Nazi salute. They attacked peaceful counter demonstrators. They even killed one woman. There are not "sides" here. There is decency and there is evil.


The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer praised Trump's statement for not criticizing them at all. My view is that Trump's campaign emboldened these elements and brought them out into the open. Trump's statement is clear evidence he doesn't want to offend his base, and he knows exactly who they are.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Fortieth Anniversary

I just wanted to comment on a personal note this week. Yesterday Joan and I celebrated 40 years of marriage together! She is the best thing that ever happened to me. Thanks to Joan we have our two wonderful daughters, Jeanette and Marie, and our dear granddaughter Katherine.

We've been through thick and thin together over the decades and her steadfast support and encouragement has been my rock all this time. I am very grateful to God for putting Joan in my life and sustaining our love for each other. Every day is a new blessing for me!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Even GOP Congress Doesn't Trust Trump

Congress has now made it quite clear it doesn't trust President Donald Trump--and that includes Republicans as well as Democrats. The House voted 419-3 to toughen economic sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran. The Senate followed suit with a 98-2 vote, introduced by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn). What's especially noteworthy about these bills is an unprecedented clause that the president cannot unilaterally relax sanctions on his own. Instead, if he wants to do so, the bills give congress the authority to hold a vote within 30 days to reverse the president's decision. Read the details here

This is highly unusual. Most of the time sanctions are imposed when a foreign nation is found to be doing such things as violating international law or human rights, committing aggression or supporting terrorism. Presidents are routinely given the authority to roll back the sanctions following an executive branch finding that the offending nation has ceased its objectionable behavior. In this case Iran's violation is in supporting terrorism, North Korea's are its nuclear and missile development programs in defiance of U.N. resolutions and its treaty obligations, and Russia's include aggression against Ukraine and its meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

Corker and overwhelming supermajorities in both houses are extremely concerned Trump might relax sanctions, particularly against Russia, on his own. He continues to deny or minimize Russian election interference and praise Russian strongman and civil rights abuser Vladimir Putin. The margins of these votes are a clear signal to Trump that if he vetoes the bill congress has the votes to easily override him and pass the legislation with better than the two-thirds majority required by the constitution. That a Republican-majority congress would pass a bill so limiting a Republican president's ability to exercise a customary function speaks volumes about how little even the members of his own party trust this president to act in the national interest when it comes to foreign policy.     

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Trump's Web of Lies

It's the smoking gun. A trusted British intermediary with Russian connections (Rob Goldstone helped arrange Donald Trump's Moscow Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013) contacted Donald Trump, Jr. during the 2016 campaign race. He offered to set up a meeting "with a Russian government attorney" who would provide material that would "incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father." He was explicit that this offer was part of a Russian government effort to swing the election in Trump's favor. The candidate's son, son-in-law Jared Kushner, who happens to be the President's most trusted confidante, and campaign manager Paul Manafort were also invited to the meeting, which took place in June of 2016. It's collusion with an adversarial foreign power to further its ends against the United States. To me it fits the textbook definition of treason as spelled out in Article III Section 3 of the Constitution. In addition, American campaign law makes it illegal for a campaign to "accept anything of value from a foreign government." And Trump himself is defending it. As was asked about Richard Nixon, what did the president know and when did he know it? I believe this is impeachable.

The progression of the web of lies is most instructive. Trump and his spokespeople denied any association with Russians beginning in September during the campaign, when Democratic emails began appearing and suspicion was first thrown on Russia as the originator. After the election, so did Trump's staff and nominees, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions who was later found to have met privately with the Russian ambassador at least twice. Gen. Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor, was found to have lied about his contacts with and promises to Russia in conversations he held between the election and Trump's inauguration. As more information began to come out, Trump took to calling each latest revelation "fake news" and whining that he was the subject of "the greatest witch hunt in political history." President Trump then had his Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General come up with derogatory performance evaluations of FBI Director James Comey to provide cover for his firing of the Director, to let him maintain the firing was not about Comey's investigation into Russian meddling in the election. Trump's public relations corps, including Press Secretary Sean Spicer, spread this story to every media outlet. In a subsequent interview with NBC's Lester Holt, Trump then stunningly exposed his own lie by asserting that he didn't need the evaluations, that he had already made up his mind and that the real reason for the dismissal was Comey's pursuit of the truth in the Russia investigation.

For his part, Trump Jr. knew about his meeting with the Russian agent lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya and let his father speak in error for 13 months without saying a word. That is lying by omission. Beyond that, it stretches credibility to think that a meeting including Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort would not have been known to candidate Trump, particularly since on the campaign trail he publicly called for Russia to hack Clinton's emails and release them. One can easily imagine Trump Junior eagerly telling his father about the oppo-research coup he was about to engineer thanks to the intelligence services of Mother Russia. We do not know yet for certain whether Trump Sr. knew, though between the press's continued digging and the investigation currently underway by former FBI Director Robert Mueller the truth seems to keep finding its way out. In fact, it was the New York Times's call to Trump Jr. that it had the incriminating emails and asking if he wanted to make a public statement they could include in the article they were working on that prompted him to pre-empt the Times by releasing the emails first himself. The President of course released statements praising his son for transparency, ignoring the fact he had lied about the events in question and come clean only after confronted by the Times

Even then the lies continued. The action was held to be "OK because everybody did it." Republican Senator Lindsay Graham was one of the first to fight back against that, pointing to the law and the adversarial nature of the Russian regime and saying, "When a foreign government wants to help your campaign the answer is always 'no.'" Trump Jr.'s "transparency" was quickly discredited when, after alleging that Veselnitskaya was the only Russian in the meeting, it has now come out that a Russian lobbyist and former Russian military man was also there, but ostensibly only to serve as interpreter, if that is to be believed. Trump Jr. also states that nothing of importance was discussed at the meeting, that Veselnitskaya made little sense and wanted only to discuss American adoption of Russian orphans. Anyone who believes that would probably be interested in some Florida swampland Mr. Trump might want to sell them. Having been caught in all the lies described above in today's blog, I leave it to the reader to evaluate to what extent the Messers Trump can be trusted on this contention. At any rate, as one after another of their lies are exposed, all trends point to the conclusion that the Trump campaign colluded with an authoritarian pariah regime currently under NATO sanction for aggression and human rights violations and working against American interests at every opportunity (witness their recent U.N. veto against increased sanctions on North Korea for its latest illegal missile tests). And what is especially remarkable is that for all their vast experience with lying, the Trumps don't seem to be very good at it. The truth is either dug out by the press, ratted out by people within the administration, or blurted out by the astonishingly undisciplined president himself. One thing that becomes increasingly difficult to believe is that this dumpster fire of a presidency will survive to complete its first term in office.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

What Motivates Republican Health Care Proposals?

House Republicans passed a health care bill that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said would result in 23 million Americans losing their health insurance. Surveys indicate it is wildly unpopular with the American people. This past week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed the long-awaited Senate Republican health care bill, touted as an improvement over the House version. The CBO said it would result in 22 million people losing their health insurance.

While this may represent an improvement of a million over its House counterpart, this is improvement of the same kind as it being better to contract bubonic plague than the Ebola virus. Also heavily unpopular with the public, there were so many Republican senators voicing public opposition to McConnell's bill that he wound up withdrawing it from consideration. But don't be fooled. Another round of secret GOP deliberations is taking place with an eye to reintroducing something along similar lines in the near future.

You may be wondering, why are they coming up with "health care" bills that result in fewer people having health care? What do they really want? The key to understanding this from the Republican point of view is that these are not really health care bills at all. They are tax cuts, an issue much more dear to Republican hearts than saving people's lives with medical care. This effort is not about health care at all. It is about repealing the taxes President Obama and the Democratic congress imposed on high income earners to provide the funds to expand Medicaid for the poor by several million people and to provide the subsidies people of limited means are getting to make the purchase of health insurance affordable to them.

When these taxes are repealed there is no way to square the circle; Medicaid and premium assistance has to be cut. The only choices to be made are whose medical treatments to cut the most. The AMA, Hospital Associations, AARP, Urban League and Nurses Union all say these Republican repeal plans would be catastrophic. Harvard Medical School says upward of 45,000 Americans will die each year if these "reforms" are enacted. Yet saving the wealthy 3% on their taxes is more important to Republican politicians. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Moving To San Diego

Joan is now retired, our house has sold, and we'll be on our way to San Diego in a matter of days. Oldest daughter Jeanette made a surprise visit yesterday and presented Joan with her full-time grandmother credentials! The upcoming schedule looks like this: Wednesday the guys from Custom Auctions are coming to take items we aren't moving with us for sale at their weekend auctions. That includes our washer and dryer and some large furniture items like our main couch and formal dining table. We are downsizing to half our current square footage and need to pare things down. (The condo already has a washer and dryer, too.)

 Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, house, tree, plant, grass, sky, outdoor and nature

Thursday the packing crew from Jack & Jeff Transfer, the local Bekins affiliate, will be here. Then on Friday they'll load everything up and take it away. Joan and I will remain in Visalia over the weekend, staying with friends Walt and Sheri Bentley Friday and Saturday nights. Friday we'll go out to dinner with friends. The Bentleys, John and Carole Greening, and Newell and Mary Ann Bringhurst will join us. Then if we can get tickets we hope to see "Holly," the story of Buddy Holly, at the Ice House Theater. Saturday evening the Episcopal Church will have a going-away barbecue for Joan, who has been the principal music minister there for the past seven years. She'll play at her last Sunday service, we'll say good bye to the folks, and then be off to begin our new life in SD.




Sunday, May 28, 2017

Upcoming Rallies in Visalia and Farmersville


Today I want to highlight three opportunities for activism in the Tulare County area.



The first is tomorrow, Monday, at the Farmersville Memorial Day Parade. Susanne Gundy is looking for people to participate and help carry the Democratic Party banner on the march route. Lineup for the parade is at the corner of Visalia Road and Farmersville Road. Participants should arrive by 9:15 AM and the parade will be over by 11:30. Farmersville is a strongly Democratic city, so marchers should enjoy a generally positive response from the citizenry. Call Susanne Gundy at (559) 368-9464 to let her know of your interest or for more information.

Every Tuesday South Valley Civic is holding a "Replace Devin Nunes" rally outside the congressman's office in Visalia at the corner of Main and Church. It goes from 11:30 to 12:30.

This Tuesday May 30 South Valley Civic will be demonstrating outside the Gropetti Automotive dealerships, where Nunes will be holding a fundraiser for his wealthy patrons. As is customary for him, these are virtually the only people among his constituents he ever associates with. Gather at the corner of Ben Maddox and Noble Avenues. The demonstration is scheduled to go from 5:00 to 6:30 PM.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trump Convicts Himself by His Own Words


May 17, 2017 will be remembered as the day the investigation of Donald J. Trump got serious. Capping off an incredible eight days of increasingly explosive revelations and admissions, yesterday Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of a special prosecutor with wide-ranging powers to investigate all things Trump, Russia and any relevant obstructions of justice. In his message, Rosenstein wrote:
"What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command." 
The need for this became clear when by admissions from his own mouth, the President told of his own interference, using his position at the head of that chain of command to try to put a halt to an investigation of which he could be a subject, the FBI investigation looking into Russian hacking of the 2016 US election and the possibility of complicity from within the Trump presidential campaign. Until quite recently I was reserving judgment on the impeachment question. Three weeks ago I was asked by conservative friends whether "like most of those liberals you think Trump ought to be impeached." My response was "No, I certainly feel that's a little premature." I'm not reserving judgment any longer. Trump has, in my view, convicted himself by his own words.

Trump can't even stick to his own lies. When he fired FBI Director James Comey his Administration was ready with a concocted story, spread by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, that the initiative came only after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Deputy Rod Rosenstein wrote letters to Trump castigating Comey's performance on the job and his handling of Secretary Clinton's email investigation last year and calling for his removal. Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Saunders said Trump "made the decision yesterday" and morale was at a low point in the FBI, whose agents had "lost confidence" in Comey. She said she had heard from "countless agents in the FBI" to this effect. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe flatly rejected these assertions, saying they were "not accurate."

Trump blew this carefully constructed web of justificatory lies to pieces in a nationally broadcast interview with NBC News anchor Lester Holt. See the 13-minute interview here.
Trump admitted he had made the decision long before. He said he was going to fire Comey regardless of any recommendations. He admitted he had called Director Comey and asked if he were under investigation. He said he spoke with Comey at a private dinner at the White House and, in the context of Comey "wanting to keep his job" again pointedly asked if he were under investigation, the clear implication being that if he were, Comey's job might be in jeopardy. Trump said Comey assured him he was not being investigated, another assertion Acting Director McCabe has called "farcical." In the Holt interview Trump also let slip his real justification for the firing: that the Russian investigation is phony and must be stopped. By his own admission then, Trump told of the actions he took to short circuit an investigation of his own presidential campaign and his motives for doing so. These actions and the intents behind them constitute, in my judgment, a clear attempt to obstruct justice in this investigation. That is a crime and an impeachable offense.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was tabbed by Rosenstein as special counsel. Mueller served under both Presidents Bush and Obama, and is universally praised by Democrats and Republicans alike for his professionalism, honor, sense of justice and dedication to ethical principles. He will now conduct a thorough investigation with full power to issue subpoenas and bring indictments. He could even subpoena Trump's tax returns to determine ties to Russia, for instance. The highly public congressional committee investigations will continue. Mueller's inquiry will proceed out of sight of the television lights, but will, when it releases its findings, likely have more import. The presidency of Donald J. Trump is at stake, and if it falls it will be by Trump's own doing.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

China Ready to Eclipse U.S. Economically

China is well on its way to eclipsing the United States as the world's number one economic power. The U.S. remains the largest economy for now but the margin is shrinking and China's GDP will surpass America's within the next five years. Once that is in place it will inevitably follow that China will similarly become the number one diplomatic, strategic and military power as well. This is happening because China is following a brilliant strategy to expand its reach and capabilities and the U.S. is following a foolish strategy of retrenchment.

This link will take you to a New York Times article detailing the trillion-dollar international investment program China is currently implementing. It includes things like a $6 billion railroad project into Laos and the rest of Southeast Asia, a $46 billion investment into electrical generation in Pakistan, the construction of a brand new port in Greece, and roads across Russia into Europe. It has already bought hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in Africa and Latin America. All these are calculated to produce profits, grow China's influence in these regions, tie their economies to China's and speed the import of resources from and the export of Chinese products and financial influence into the targeted areas.

This is the fruit of the capital amassed beginning forty years ago when China threw off its Maoist economic ideology and relentlessly enlarged ever since in positive trade balances earned as manufacturer to the world. First the profits were used to develop China and now the continued surpluses are being reinvested to refashion the world into the Chinese economic orbit. Comparisons to the American Marshall Plan initiative of the late 1940s and early 1950s are strongly valid. The U.S. is and for some time has been a timid, inward-looking, short-sighted player by comparison. It's afraid to do big things now. Even a single modest high speed rail project in California is hamstrung by nay-saying and fought every step of the way. "We can't afford it," they say. So progress, growth are forfeited and the baton is being passed, or rather seized, by China.

This is not because of currency manipulation or some other form of chicanery. It's because China is being smart and we are not. If you do not spend to invest, modernize and expand, you languish and get surpassed. The U.S. is making some progress in things like green energy, but falls woefully short of the massive strides China is making on all fronts. Twenty years from now, when the nations of the world are clearly turning the cold shoulder to the U.S. and cozying up to China the US citizenry still won't understand why and how this all happened. But those of us who are paying attention, if we're still around, will. And we will obnoxiously be saying "I told you so."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Must Have a Special Prosecutor Now

Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey today has the smell of a man afraid that the investigation into Russian influence in his campaign is getting too close for comfort. Trump's next move will be to appoint a lap dog to head the FBI with marching orders to bury the Russia investigation once and for all. In his firing statement Trump referenced a recommendation by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation when it became public he lied under oath at his confirmation hearing about his repeated meetings with the Russian ambassador.

This is highly reminiscent of Richard Nixon firing Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. That was the last time a president axed a prosecutor who was investigating himself. Nixon's action set off a firestorm that only ended with his resignation in disgrace the following year. Americans concerned about Trump's increasingly clear turn toward authoritarianism must focus on demanding that congress appoint a non-political Special Prosecutor so that the real facts can finally be determined.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dems Pummel Trump in First Budget Battle

Amazingly, Democrats more than held their own in the just-passed budget compromise that funds federal operations through the end of September. The self-proclaimed "world's greatest negotiator" got absolutely taken to the cleaners in his first budget test. Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi released glowing statements on the deal while their Republican counterparts Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan were tellingly mum. As Bloomberg stated, "Overall, the compromise resembles more of an Obama Administration-era budget than a Trump one." The Washington Post details the specifics in an article titled, "Eight Ways Trump Got Rolled in His First Budget Negotiation." See the full WaPo story here. The telling factor was that Trump couldn't marshall unanimity from the Republican side and the GOP didn't want to have a government shutdown happen when they were in complete control of both Congress and the Presidency.

For example, Trump's promise to slash EPA by one-third amidst massive layoffs turned into merely a 1% cut with no personnel reductions. Obama's cancer "moon shot" got a $2 billion increase instead of the elimination Trump wanted. Trump didn't get his border wall. In fact, the legislation includes specific language preventing Homeland Security from spending any money on it. Planned Parenthood funding remains unscathed. Rather than $18 billion in domestic cuts, there is actually a net increase, even apart from the defense increase. On defense, even though Republicans have the White House and both Houses of Congress, Trump's call for a $30 billion military spending boost was reduced to $12.5 billion, with another $2.5 billion to come when and if the Administration produces a specific plan to defeat ISIS. Obamacare subsidies will continue to be paid. There is no crackdown on "sanctuary cities."

Trump has said he will sign the bill. Speaking of the legislative process in his own inimitable style, Trump said this on CBS's "Face the Nation:" "In many cases you're forced to make deals that are not the deal you'd make. You'd make a much different kind of deal. You're forced into situations that you hate to be forced into."

A tweet characterizing the bill might go something like this: "Trump world's greatest negotiator NOT. Instead VERY WEAK. Sad!!!!"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

O'Reilly Shows Moral Bankruptcy of Fox Empire

The termination of Fox cable's leading star Bill O'Reilly is the latest example in the continuing devolution of the inner rot animating the Murdoch empire and the conservative infomercial industry. Many of the attitudes and misinformation that led to the rise of Trump and Trumpism emanated from Fox, and much of that was hatched in a workplace culture under the thrall of sexual criminals.

Former Fox "News" president Roger Ailes went down last year under the weight of repeated allegations and finally the news that there had been $20 million in payouts of hush money to aggrieved women at Fox who were propositioned and pressured to have sex with the boss. Now, thanks to the New York Times and one courageous woman who wouldn't be bought, O'Reilly is going down too, though with a $25 million severance check. It was the Times that dug up the information that five women had been paid a total of $15 million to keep their mouths shut about O'Reilly's predation, blackmail and retaliation against non-compliant females. Wendy Walsh is the woman who told her story rather than settle for a payoff to stay quiet.

Consider the moral bankruptcy of Fox's ownership, patriarch Rupert and sons Lachlan and James. So long as things could be kept quiet with hush money and ratings were good, the millions spent on keeping their  management's and star's criminality confidential were simply part of the cost of doing business to them. The culture of misogyny was nothing to be concerned about so long as the bottom line was served. It was only after the Times informed the world that there had been a long history of this with O'Reilly, (as with Ailes), and that Ms. Walsh was apparently out of control and would not settle, and consequently that advertisers began deserting O'Reilly's program that action was taken. In other words, when profits were threatened that's when the purveyors of "family values" saw the light and finally "did the right thing." How noble.   

Sunday, April 2, 2017

LA Times Castigates "Our Dishonest President"

Anyone who follows or drops in on this blog even occasionally knows I have opinions and express them in these columns. They also know I take pains, just as I did in my book, to rigorously fact-check everything I present. We live at a time where the cover story in a recent Time Magazine was titled "Is Truth Dead?" At such a time it is more important than ever to assert my adherence to the principle that truth matters and that facts must form the basis of thought and discourse. I believe that to abandon that principle is to court a descent into barbarism of the kind seen in the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century.

I thus find it gratifying that more and more opinion leaders such as Time and CBS News are focusing on that fundamental principle and speaking out directly. The impetus behind this, of course, is the current lying president and the lying crowd of retainers and sycophants who surround him. Today's lead editorial in the Los Angeles Times is a strong example of the increasingly forthright stance being taken as a result of the rising alarm associated with the serial prevarications of the minority president and his enablers. I find the trend refreshing, if unfortunately belated in too many cases.

Today's Times editorial, "Our Dishonest President" is the first of a series of four. I encourage you to click on the link and read it in its entirety yourself.To give you a synopsis, it pulls no punches in using such terms as "narcissist, demagogue and dangerous" to describe the man in the White House. His policies are characterized by such terms as "train wreck, catastrophe, chilling and frightening." But their harshest criticism is reserved for the man himself, "unpredictable, reckless and petulant," "imprudent and erratic."

Their detailed critique, to follow in installments over the next three days, will concentrate on three aspects of the current chief executive's character flaws that present a danger to the republic itself.

They are:

1) "Trump's shocking lack of respect for fundamental rules and the institutions on which our government is based."
2) "His utter lack of regard for the truth."
3) "His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot ideas."

The Times concludes today's piece with the warning that those who oppose the president must speak out strongly and incessantly in order to safeguard the constitution and all it stands for. I couldn't agree more. I look forward to tomorrow's piece on the president's attempts to undermine constitutional government itself.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Call for Demonstration Against Nunes

Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of the 22nd Congressional District that wends its way from Tulare through Visalia up to Clovis, has long been a local embarrassment. He is now also a national laughingstock. As Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee he is in charge of the crucially important investigation to determine the extent of Russian interference in last November's election and whether any Americans were complicit. If they were it would amount to treason against the United States. The Director of the FBI has confirmed that his bureau is also conducting its own investigation into this very subject. A number of people involved with the Trump presidential campaign are subjects of this investigation.

Rather than fulfilling this important role impartially in the interest of American national security, from the outset Nunes has engaged in a public campaign to minimize the importance of the issue and to deflect blame from President Trump and any of his associates. Once some evidence did begin to become available, Nunes went to the White House to receive it and briefed Trump, without even sharing the information with the members of his own committee. Imagine what type of "independent" congressional "investigation" Nunes has in mind when he informs the target of the investigation what is going on before he even allows the Democrats and Republicans on his committee to see and vet the intelligence themselves. The obvious partisanship was unfortunately predictable given that Nunes was a leading figure of the Trump transition team. Newspapers across the political spectrum from the Wall Street Journal to the Washington Post have all called on Nunes to step down, which he has up to now refused to do. His own constituents have little say; he hasn't had a town hall, debate or other open public appearance in his district in years.

The congressman will be back in the area to talk to his favorite kind of people, big money supporters, tomorrow. If you can make it to Fresno, I encourage you to go and help encourage some accountability from Rep. Nunes. I've pasted the appeal below from the Visalia Democratic Club. If you participate, remember to keep it peaceful!

Event: Rally Against Nunes
Date: Friday, March 31st
Time: Noon to 2 PM, Sign-ups start at 10:30 AM
Place: Tornino's Banquet Hall in Fresno
          5080 N. Blackstone Ave. (Just north of Shaw and Blackstone)

Representative Devin Nunes will be giving a speech at the Ag Lenders Society of California. Our group will be rallying outside Tornino's, where he will be speaking. Since he is getting so much national coverage, various organizations have contacted the Rachel Maddow show to drum up attention to help get support for the UnseatNunes Crowdpac. Therefore, this rally needs to be BIG!!!! It's also critical that the rally be nonviolent and does not interfere with the Lenders' meeting that will be going on inside Tornino's. The goal is to send a message to the country, with lots of signs and attendance that we are not happy with Nunes.
We need your help to spread the word so we can get lots of people at this rally!
Sherry Timmons (559)334-7531

Monday, March 20, 2017

Liar in Chief Exposed in Congressional Hearing

The House Intelligence Committee met today to investigate President Trump's recent charges that President Obama ordered phone taps of Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers were clear with the results of their investigations: Trump's tweets containing these allegations are complete fabrications without a shred of evidence behind them. In other words, the President of the United States is a brazen, bald-faced liar.

"I have no information that supports those tweets," Comey told the committee, adding that the Justice Department, along with the FBI, had no information to support the allegations. Comey said that no president could order a wiretapping operation against a specific American citizen.

Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump would not apologize to Obama for the accusations against him, adding that there were questions still remaining about surveillance that may or may not have taken place during the campaign.

A Fox News report had also intimated that British intelligence might have done the job for Obama, a charge that Trump and his Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, have repeated. CNN reports: Rogers said under questioning from the top Democrat on the committee that there was no information that the Obama administration requested the British surveillance agency GCHQ to conduct eavesdropping on Trump, as stated in a Fox News report that has been cited by the White House. He also said that he had not personally done so."No, sir, and nor would I, that would be expressly against the construct of the Five Eyes agreement that has been in place for decades."

Comey and Rogers were also questioned about Russian involvement in trying to sway the 2016 election to Trump. The FBI investigation is still proceeding on this, and based on the research so far Comey directly corroborated these suspicions. "They wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him. I think all three we were confident in at least as early as December," Comey said.



Friday, March 17, 2017

What Jesus Would Say to Paul Ryan

What are the ethical underpinnings of society? Are there moral principles which provide a guide for the objectives of public policy? How do the foundational standards of the Judeo-Christian world view, the starting point for any discussion of right and wrong in Western Civilization, guide our steps in meeting societal needs? These are big philosophical questions, and any political debate is conditioned by the moral perspectives of those involved. Since the object of politics is to accomplish good for the polity, what is done depends on what one considers good, and that depends on where one goes to find moral guidance.

Nicholas Kristof has written a column on the health care debate in the form of a parable. It expresses his idea of what Jesus would say to Paul Ryan. It expresses my own views as well. I invite you to read it for yourself and see what you think. Read it on this link.

  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge

I saw "Hacksaw Ridge" today and I'd have to rate it the best World War II movie I've ever seen. That's saying a lot because I include such films as "The Longest Day," "Saving Private Ryan," "Letters from Iwo Jima," and even "Patton." It's a marvelous story and character study, with enough background to both lay the groundwork and develop empathy for the people involved. Then of course come the combat scenes, and in this case I find them unparalleled for their realism.

The true-life story of Desmond Doss set the stage for this magnificent film. Almost drummed out of the service for his refusal to carry a gun and shunned by his comrades-in-arms for what they mistook to be his cowardice, he went on to save 75 of their lives under the utmost peril of his own life in one of the most epic stories of heroism ever told. He is the only conscientious objector ever to win America's highest military award, the Medal of Valor. 

Andrew Garfield is brilliant in the title role and director Mel Gibson turns in an incredible job of painting the picture and telling the story. Unless you can't take graphic combat wounds "Hacksaw Ridge" is a must-see.

Friday, March 10, 2017

AARP Urges Defeat of GOP Health Plan

AARP has come out strongly against the Republican health proposal. The organization's  announcement today is reproduced below. It's one of the most concise list of the plan's shortcomings I've seen. This harmful legislation would take health care away from millions of people, take billions of dollars away from Medicare and inflate the budget deficit. If it passes in its present form many thousands of people will die. It's that stark. To go to the AARP's full newsletter on the topic click here.

In a statement today, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond announced AARP’s opposition to the House plan that would make changes to our current health care system, such as shortening the life of Medicare, hiking costs for those who can least afford higher insurance premiums, risking seniors’ ability to live independently, and giving tax breaks to big drug companies and health insurance companies:

“AARP opposes this legislation, as introduced, that would weaken Medicare, leaving the door open to a voucher program that shifts costs and risks to seniors.
“Before people even reach retirement age, big insurance companies could be allowed to charge them an age tax that adds up to thousands of dollars more per year. Older Americans need affordable health care services and prescriptions. This plan goes in the opposite direction, increasing insurance premiums for older Americans and not doing anything to lower drug costs.
“On top of the hefty premium increase for consumers, big drug companies and other special interests get a sweetheart deal.
“Finally, Medicaid cuts could impact people of all ages and put at risk the health and safety of 17.4 million children and adults with disabilities and seniors by eliminating much-needed services that allow individuals to live independently in their homes and communities. Although no one believes the current health care system is perfect, this harmful legislation would make health care less secure and less affordable.

AARP stands ready to work with both parties on legislation that puts Americans first, not the special interests.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

FBI Director Calls Trump a Liar

Directly from the New York Times below. To see the full original article click here.

WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.

Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump leveled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment. Sarah Isgur Flores, the spokeswoman for the Justice Department, also declined to comment.

Mr. Comey’s request is a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the position of questioning Mr. Trump’s truthfulness. The confrontation between the two is the most serious consequence of Mr. Trump’s weekend Twitter outburst, and it underscores the dangers of what the president and his aides have unleashed by accusing the former president of a conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump’s young administration.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Personal Announcement

Dear Readers:

This is to let everyone know that new entries in Brave Gnu Whirled may be sparse for awhile. My wife Joan and I are preparing our home in Visalia for sale. We are retiring and plan to move to our condominium in Rancho Bernardo (San Diego area) permanently once Joan finishes her school year on June 9. Much of our furniture is being moved out today to ready the house for staging. Our target date to put the house on the market is March 2. I am so grateful for your readership and support. In the mean time, don't forget that now is the time to get involved and make a difference. Several of the new administration's plutocratic and reactionary initiatives have already been derailed or curtailed by the concerted efforts of an aroused citizenry. The U.S. Senate, for instance, reports public contact running five times higher than normal!

The disappointment at Trump's election, nauseating cabinet nominations and first actions as president has been lessened to some extent by the consequent rise of the Resistance movement to oppose his half-baked, inhumane, impractical, unamerican and unconstitutional agenda. The liberal/progressive majority has awakened and its resolve is a heartening thing to behold. We haven't seen this level of commitment and enthusiasm since the Obama candidacy in 2008. I encourage you to act locally to support this movement. Call your representatives, join a march, write letters to your local newspaper, speak out in the public comment segment at your city council and school board meetings, talk to your friends, join an organization, and most of all, vote. Here's a link to a piece on how to effectively get your message across to the office of an elected official. 

Peace to you and yours!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Trump's Strataegy of Divide and Rule

Does Donald Trump have a strategy as president, or is he a loose cannon? His approval rating among Americans is the lowest of any chief executive this early in his presidency, with only 44% approving and 53% disapproving of his performance in a CNN/ORC survey. Trump is the only chief executive underwater in the polls in his first month since such polls began, which go all the way back to Eisenhower. So, is he blowing it big time?

No, his actions are, I believe, intentional and politically calculated. Trump is 90% popular with Republicans, the survey showed. That's what he's after. If, for example, his executive order banning anyone from entering the country from seven Muslim nations continues to get shot down by the courts, this will serve only to rile up his Republican base all the more. This is also why political strategist Steve Bannon was appointed to a permanent position on the National Security Council (NSC) while the Chairman of the Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence were removed from the list of NSC principals. Another gambit is talk of ending the separation of church and state mandated by the Bill of Rights. Every move he is making is for political effect; the national interest is virtually irrelevant. Trump, Bannon, Kellyann Conway and the entire team will continue to do all they can to gin up reactionaries including the GOP base. They are willing to risk also activating the liberals, which they certainly are doing as well. My appearance at the Pacific Beach Democratic Club in San Diego last night showed me just how incensed and energized liberals are to oppose the Trump agenda. Trump's calculation is that red meat to the right will beat the effect of red meat to the left. To oppositely paraphrase Bush 43, DJT is a divider, not a uniter, and by design. We'll see if or how long this works, and whether the nation can maintain its cohesion in the interim.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump Initiatives Imperil the World

A brief look at the news these days makes it clear that new President Trump meant what he said and intends to carry out exactly the kinds of things he was campaigning on. An era of extraordinary danger is upon us. Here are some of the more ominous.

Taking health care away from millions will result in the deaths of many thousands of people. His China ideas are playing with fire and could end in global depression and even possibly war. His environmental ideas could speed the path to a mega extinction epoch punctuated by trade wars, the rise of totalitarian regimes and imperialist wars of resource acquisition. His NATO ideas could lead to the dismemberment of the alliance and a Russian calculation that wholesale aggression might pay off. In my judgment, the world has not been at as perilous a juncture since 1939, the eve of World War II.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Details of Trump-Russian Campaign Collusion

Former British counterintelligence officer Christopher Steele has compiled an extensive report based on his contacts that conclusively identifies the specifics about the Russian hacking operation mounted against the Hillary Clinton campaign throughout 2016. Particularly damning are its findings that Russian officials up to and including President Vladimir Putin were personally involved in approving and directing the operation and that Donald Trump himself was aware and approved cooperation between the top brain trust of his presidential campaign and these same Russian agents. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has commented, if such allegations are true they fit the constitutional definition of treason.

Here is a link to a detailed report on Steele's findings by investigative reporter Ronnie Dugger as published in Reader Supported News yesterday, January 18.  I invite you to take a close look at this report. Prepare to be flabbergasted.

As for me, I will not be watching the inauguration tomorrow. It seems to be a matter of great importance to Trump that he gets a large crowd and that his TV ratings are strong. He has lately taken to bragging about the size of his prospective audience. To do my small part to frustrate these hopes, I will have the television on to a channel that is not showing the inauguration. If you have cable an action like this will be compiled into their viewing statistics.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Why Rep. Barbara Lee is Boycotting the Inauguratiion

Representative Barbara Lee of California will be boycotting the Trump Inauguration on January 20. Her statement below concisely expresses what many of us believe about the incoming administration.

“Inaugurations are celebratory events, a time to welcome the peaceful transition of power and honor the new administration. On January 20th, I will not be celebrating or honoring an incoming president who rode racism, sexism, xenophobia and bigotry to the White House.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 29:  Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) accepts the Elizabeth Taylor Legislative Leadership Award at the AIDSWatch 2016 Positive Leadership Award Reception at the Rayburn House Office Building on February 29, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation)

“Donald Trump ran one of the most divisive and prejudiced campaigns in modern history. He began his campaign by insulting Mexican immigrants, pledging to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and then spent a year and a half denigrating communities of color and normalizing bigotry. He called women ‘pigs’, stoked Islamophobia, and attacked a Gold Star family. He mocked a disabled reporter and appealed to people’s worst instincts.  I cannot in good conscience attend an inauguration that would celebrate this divisive approach to governance.
“After the election, many hoped the president-elect would turn toward unifying our country. Instead he has shown us that he will utilize the same tools of division he employed on the campaign trail as our nation’s Commander-in-Chief. We need look no further than the team he is assembling to find signals that the era of Trump will be one of chaos and devastation for our communities.

“The president-elect has named Steve Bannon, a white nationalist as his chief strategist. He has nominated Senator Jeff Sessions to the office of Attorney General, despite his long career of opposition to civil and human rights. And in perhaps the most damning sign of the chaos to come, the president-elect has expedited the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make America sick again.”

“To make matters worse, after the intelligence community reported Russian interference in our election, Donald Trump frequently and forcefully defended Vladimir Putin. He insulted senior intelligence officials in order to preserve his reputation and disguise the truth. The American people will never forget that when a foreign government violated our democracy, Donald Trump chose the interests of another nation over our own.

“Donald Trump has proven that his administration will normalize the most extreme fringes of the Republican Party. On Inauguration Day, I will not be celebrating. I will be organizing and preparing for resistance.”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Obama Farewell Address Looks to the Future

 Obama Forever

On Tuesday January 10 President Barack Obama delivered his Farewell Address at the McCormick Center in Chicago, bookending his improbable ascent to the presidency in the city where it began. The speech was vintage Obama, displaying his remarkable oratorical gifts, hopeful and optimistic despite all he's had to endure, and calling us to answer our better angels while remaining committed to staying involved to make our world a better place.

There was just a bit of self-congratulation, modest compared to what the President could have said. He pointed out that "no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and carried out an operation in America during these eight years." We have "cut our dependence on foreign oil in half and doubled our production of renewables." "If, considering the economic conditions we came in on, someone had said eight years ago we would have been able to cut unemployment more than in half and have a record 75 consecutive months of positive job creation" that would have been hailed as quite an achievement. We also have "the lowest uninsured rate in history and the growth in health care cost is the lowest it's been in 50 years." These are all accurate assessments for which the Administration has every right to be justly proud.

Obama also administered "three warnings" based on his assessment that "American democracy is under assault." "We must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are," he said. The warnings had to do with income inequality, race relations and excessive partisanship. Growing income inequality threatens to poison society by denying upward mobility to average Americans, creating cynicism and desperation that finds expression in extremist solutions. It also feeds demagoguery that points to groups as scapegoats for lack of progress, turning Americans against one another.

He mentioned that some felt his election in 2008 meant the country had entered a "post-racial" phase, but that such a view is unrealistic. He said "I've lived long enough to be able to say that things have definitely improved in the past 30 years, but we still have work to do." In the fields of housing, criminal justice and education "hearts must change." He quoted the fictional character Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird that to understand another person you must have empathy, to be able to imagine what it's like to walk around in their skin.

Excessive partisanship was the President's third cautionary warning. Too often, he said, "we retreat into our own bubbles." He pointed out a "fragmentation, only accepting information that fits our opinions." We need and must accept "a common baseline of fact and information," that "science and reason matter," and that "without common ground compromise is impossible." He decried the "selective distortion of the facts." The entire tendency is, he summed up, "self-defeating." It is characterized by a "fear of change, fear of differences, and intolerance of free thought." Quoting George Washington from the first president's Farewell Address, Obama said "We should reject the first attempt to alienate any part of the American people from another."

He ended with an appeal to activism, saying that the system does respond to the strong voice of the people when it is loud and insistent. He called upon the young, who "do not see change as something to be feared" to spearhead a renewed drive for "a fair, just, and inclusive America." Leaving the presidency at just 55, one can well imagine Barack Obama continuing to serve as an active catalyst for the vision he has worked so hard to further over the past eight years in the White House.