Forget The Stupid Memo – It’s The Russians!

It’s all about that damn stupid GOP memo.   Something the White House put together to be delivered by presidential water carrier, Devin Nunes.   Nunes, should be booted to the curb from his job of Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, because of his obvious, overt and continuing bias for Donald Trump.  The Committee Nunes chairs, is supposed to look out for our best interest, not Donald Trump’s.   But it’s the memo that’s really getting to me, and the way the mainstream media has been thoroughly sucked in by it.

When I went to bed they were talking about the memo.  What might be in the memo.  What might not be in the memo.  What might have been redacted from the memo.  When Trump would release the memo, or maybe not release the memo.   Memo, memo, memo, whose got the memo now….   Blah, blah, blah…..   When I got up this morning, they were still on it.  An endless loop of memo blather.

The memo, is probably nothing.  It’s a memo for God’s sake, not a formula for rocket fuel that was stolen by the Russians or proof that the Trump family has been purchased by Russian money over the past ten years so completely that this current president has no choice whatsoever but to abide by whatever Vladimir Putin wants, like failing to enforce sanctions approved by a majority, with only five no votes in the House and Senate.  Nothing like that.  No, it’s just a stupid memo.  In all likelihood, nothing but blather made up out of whole cloth by those in the Administration who would condemn the FBI and other American intelligence agencies while sneaking in the top three Russian spymasters for clandestine meetings with Trump appointees on U.S. soil.   One, who had been barred from entering the United States because of his involvement in the attack on the Ukraine and subsequent invasion and capture of Crimea.

What?  Seriously?  Yes, according to Reuters and confirmed by others, that’s exactly what happened.  The Trumpists brought in Russia’s spymasters.  Probably to talk about how best to make those nasty sanctions go away, but there could have been more.   Maybe they’ve come up with some way to set up that “back door” secure communications channel to the Kremlin via the Russian embassy, Jared Kushner  discussed with the Russian ambassador during the transition?   Why would Trump need a secure channel to Moscow?   What is it he needs to hide?

That’s the point.  The Russians.  Everything with this administration always seems to come back to the Russians.   Even this current obsession with condemning the American intelligence establishment while seemingly trying to promote Russia’s ability to further infiltrate and influence the American political process.

It’s the Russians.   It’s the spymasters secret visit to the U.S. at the apparent invitation of the Trumpists.   It’s the way this administration favors Russia over the United States.  That’s  what the media needs to focus on, not this stupid memo and the diversion it has caused.

While doing all he could to undermine the credibility of the FBI, Donald Trump was waving in Boris and Natahsa through the rose garden doors.  Even now some covert think tank in Moscow is probably working on a cover story for the Russian spymaster’s trip to the U.S.  Something along the lines of their being here to discuss peace in Syria or a joint response to North Korea or a continued response to the Taliban or a cost saving plan to pull U.S. troops away from the Russian border.   Don’t be fooled.

Over the past couple of days I’ve had more than one conversation about the “memo” as a diversion.   More than once I have used the analogy that good reporters should be like hungry watchdogs.  Oh, the watchdogs are out there all right, but most have forgotten or never learned how to identify a bone, so when one is thrown their way they miss it altogether or are diverted.   A situation made all the more difficult by a president who keeps throwing giant bags of kibble into the air.

Which brings us to one last point.  Do you think Donald Trump is crafty enough to come up with all this stuff?  Diversion after diversion leading to an all-out attack on the FBI while refusing to enforce sanctions against the Russians, at a time when the FBI is investigating Russian interference in U.S. elections?   Do you?

Fast forward to a dimly lit room deep within the Kremlin.   A half-dozen men in dark suits drain bottles of the finest vodka while congratulating themselves, holding their sides they emit howls of laughter at how easily the stupid Americans can be deceived, controlled and contained as one by one  America’s long-standing institutions continue to weaken.

Beware The Game Of Golf: There’s No Telling What It Might Do To You

Photo courtesty of Chuck Koshiol*

One of the funniest lines in the movie Caddyshack, is when the head greenskeeper, Sandy, tells Bill Murray in a thick Scottish Brogue to go out and kill all the gophers on the golf course.   Because of the accent, Murray thinks he’s being told to go out and kill all the golfers, to which he replies, “Check me if I’m wrong Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they’re gonna lock me up and throw away the key.”

Funny stuff.  Takes me back to 1958 and the “Lil Pros” in my hometown of Paynesville, Minnesota.    There were a  lot of gophers around, which is why I continue to suffer from severe Caddyshack  flashbacks.

My buddy Chuck Koshiol and I were ten at the time.  We had to be two of the youngest players on the local circuit.   Since nearly all our competition was older, we had little chance of winning anything.  The league’s organizer, Ruth Yamamoto, apparently realized this, and handed out little trophies to nearly everybody, even though we were less than adequate at the game.

Our golf course back in those days, Koronis Hills,  was nine glorious holes sitting on the edge of a woods that ran for several miles to the south, all the way to the shores of Lake Koronis.   I was told, and have no reason not to believe it, that my grandfather, Herb Stinton,  a depot agent for the Soo Line Railroad, was one of the town fathers that designed and then oversaw construction of the original course years before I came along.   That was both good and bad.  Good, because it made me feel connected to the land, giving me a sense of place.   Bad, because when I decided to start golfing, my parents thought it might not last, so why spend all that money on a bag and golf clubs for a little kid when my grandfather had a perfectly good bag of clubs he had stashed away in his garage decades before?  What clubs they were.

The head of the driver was falling off.  I stuck it back onto its wood shaft with some black electrician’s tape.  In addition to being embarrassingly unsightly, with hunks of tape hanging from the club, this made for certain difficulties on my drives, as the head would sometimes fly off the club, zooming down the fairway,  endangering flying birds and errant gophers, the club head occasionally outdistancing the ball by ten to twenty yards.

Oh, the humiliation.  That was another problem.   Just a bunch of little kids, but we took it all so seriously.  Even with the sand greens.  They weren’t green, actually.  They were heavily oiled sand.  So they were brown.  Brown greens.  When you putted, your ball left a trail in the sandy surface so you could see just how pathetic your aim truly was, providing “line in the sand” proof of what a miserable golfer you truly were.  Beware the brown greens.

After several players had “putted out,” there were ball marks and trails and shoeprints all over the place, so you or one of your fellow players had to pick up a big rake and rake the green, using a circular motion and starting from the inside moving out so that the surface would be smooth for the next group of golfers who came along to play in the oily sand – if they made it past the sand traps protecting the “green.”   In fairness, the traps were loose sand, so they gave you a lot more trouble than the greens did,  as they were a harder surface due to all the oil.  Either way, there was plenty of trouble to go around.

So there we were, me and my friend Chuck, who was even shorter than I was at that point in our short lives, with all those older players towering above us.   And me dealing with the humiliation of wondering whether my driver would fly apart on the next tee.  I don’t know precisely how Chuck felt about it all, but he recently admitted that he played golf for just that one summer and never looked back.   I wasn’t that smart.   I stuck it out and wondered what was wrong as I kept getting hammered by those older players in our little group of “Lil Pros.”

I did eventually give up on the driver and move to my three-wood to tee off.   Chances were I’d hit the ball just as far and there was no concern about the club head flying off and maybe killing somebody.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, Chuck had an even bigger problem.  He was a lefty, playing with right-handed clubs he had inherited from either his grandfather or his grandmother.   He can’t remember which, just that he was a lefty with right-handed clubs.  It’s no wonder he soured on the game.

Finally, after several years with Herbie’s old clubs, my folks went way out on a limb and bought me a whole new set.   This helped, but not as much as you might suppose.   I had been so brainwashed by playing with guys who were a foot taller and a couple of years older that there was no saving my game.   I was doomed to be a duffer.  Or so I thought, until I got to Baltimore and then California.

After the early 70’s, I didn’t pick up another club until moving to Maryland in 1982.   For reasons I can’t explain, I missed the game.   I bought a set of clubs at the Pine Ridge pro shop and started playing again regularly with my friend and colleague from WMAR-TV, Scott Garceau.   Part of my motivation for getting back in the game was that I needed a diversion from the rigors of doing tv news for a living.   And so I was back.  Not a great golfer, but a fair one, I think, shooting in the low eighties usually, which is not great but respectable.

I got better as I recalled the advice of one of my buddies from “Lil Pro” days, Bill Haines.  One of his relatives was a golf pro or semi-pro, or something such,  who had told him to spend more time at the range,  hitting a couple of buckets of balls on those days when he wasn’t playing a full round of golf and to hit a bucket of balls as a warm up prior to a regular game.   It was advice I remembered, and it worked.   Funny how some things stay with you.

In the 80’s, I got to California and decided to take the game seriously again, playing 18 to 36 holes a week and going out to the range on those days when I wasn’t playing a full round of golf.    My golf buddies, Jerry and Bob, were both good golfers, which caused me to focus.   And so it was, that I became a scratch golfer – provided the course was at least mildly forgiving.  I was shooting par or breaking it, every time I went out.   I was able to do it at will.  But I really had to try.   Like I said, this was now serious business.

I had conquered my shortcomings from the 1950’s, overcoming whatever demons were still there,  lurking in my psyche.   I had dragged those little bastards out and beaten them to death with  my three wood, courtesy of Slammin’ Sammy Snead and personal lessons from Jack Nicklaus on his “Golf My Way” video tape.   I had done what I had set out to do.   There was no more to it, and so, once again, I gave up the game.  For the third time.

And now my clubs sit in the basement, unused, unloved and under appreciated.  Recently I thought I might take up the game again, but then thought twice.  My personality is such that I need to do my best at whatever I do, and golf, if you wish to play it well, is simply too much work.   Anyway, my Spaulding clubs are so old that I still have woods that are actually made out of wood.   Imagine that?   Woods made from wood?  But I hit them well, so why would I buy a whole new set of clubs when what I have works just fine?   I could, I suppose, buy one of those new giant headed metal drivers, so as to not feel humiliated while teeing off?  Back to the driver again?  Interesting, how things sometimes come full circle.   Greens are now green, but woods are made of metal and I’m left wondering why I should buy a whole new set of clubs when what I have will work just fine?

In fairness, I should add that the old course back in Minnesota, now has 18 holes and real grass greens.  No raking required.   Hopefully, they’ve done something about the gophers as well, without blowing up the fairways ala Bill Murray in Caddyshack.

A few years ago I went back and tried playing the old course with my brother and nephew.   My game fell to pieces as all the old demons came rushing back.    I couldn’t even drive the hill on number six.  Good God, what a game.    I think this time maybe I’ll leave the clubs in the basement.  For good this time.   No really, I mean it.  Probably.

*(front row: Bill Haines, Jamey Yamamoto, Chuck Koshiol, Ron Olsen)

 

It’s Not All Bad

CBS News Sunday Morning, did a piece today about the song “We Are The World.”   They did the story, because today is the 33rd anniversary of the song being recorded by the who’s who of the music industry.

Thirty three years ago today, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner, Billy Joel and so many others got together in a studio in Hollywood to lay down the tracks for a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie.   Quincy Jones was there as well, conducting and co-producing the history-making choir made up of some of the most famous voices in the world, who, as CBS so correctly pointed out, were asked to “leave their egos at the door.”

Also there, against all odds perhaps, was a country boy from rural Minnesota.   I was with KABC-TV at the time, and they sent me over to cover the event.   Now, watching the coverage on CBS so many years later, I can hardly believe I had the privilege of being among a handful of journalists allowed in to witness the event as it happened.

Thank you, KABC.   Thank you, Los Angeles.  Thank you Journalism, for opening so many doors.  Thank you, CBS News Sunday Morning, for allowing thoughtful, non-rushed, long-form tv reporting to continue.

To date, according to the network, “We Are The World,” has raised some $65-million in aid for Africa.    More than $100-million has been raised for Africa and the United States.  And the beat goes on.

January 17, 1994 – 4:31AM

January 17th, was the anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake. I had forgotten all about it until I started reading some of what my friends in Cali were posting on Facebook. Then it all came rushing back. Here’s what I posted on one friend’s FB timeline. It was what it was, and it was really something.
######

Unlike prior quakes this one did not stop. Just got worse and kept going. Later, reports from CalTech indicated the earth where we lived in the SF Valley had moved a foot both vertically and horizontally as the mountains at the west end of the Valley were permanently rearranged. Bookcases were down. In the kitchen, everything that had been in the cupboards was on the floor. The fridge had danced out into the middle of the kitchen. My wife’s crystal, all shattered. After walking around our building to check for structural damage I left for work to cover the death of a CHP cop where the freeways had collapsed at the I-5/14 interchange. I recall Carlos Amezcua asking me while we were on the air live how I felt personally about the experience. I choked up, as I said I was just happy my wife and I were both still alive. Later that day I swore I would leave Cali. Twenty one years later, I did. There’s a lot to love about California. As with all places, there are two sides to the coin.

Maybe Dr. Evil Will Save Us?

Is Michael Wolff really the author of this new book outlining how nutso Donald Trump is, or is that Mike Meyers doing his Dr. Evil thing?   The resemblance is uncanny.  Will the Donald, “He is like a child,”  be able to fend off a major frontal attack by the evil one?

Whatever you might think of Wolff and his book “Fire and Fury,” it should be of interest that mainstream, credible reporters, have been checking with their White House sources to be told that generally the book gets it right.   Donald J. Trump, is dangerously incompetent and possibly unstable.   More than two-dozen mental health professionals wrote a book about that same frightening issue months ago.   And that begs the question:  Where are the Democrats?   Remember those guys?

Trump’s fellow Republicans clearly care nothing for the common good of the country, only the good of their wealthy benefactors,  as they support Trump’s ravings, cutting healthcare to the poor, opening the nation to more off-shore oil wells, mining in wilderness areas, the destruction of the EPA and huge tax cuts for the wealthy while they threaten to do away with Medicare and Social Security.

Where are the Democrats?  Will they ever grow a spine?   They should be at the forefront, screaming about Trump’s possible mental instability, his family’s admitted Russia connection and demanding that the Republicans begin impeachment proceedings in the House immediately.  Or at least get the IRS to show us his tax returns.  Some of us are still waiting.

Nothing much is at stake here, just the future of the country.

It’s one thing to stay out of the way as your opponent destroys himself.  It’s entirely another to run away like scared little mice, holding your silence, while the nation remains in very real jeopardy from an executive inner-circle that resembles a Looney Tunes cartoon with Daffy Duck in the lead.

With the mostly silent Democrats going all weak in the knees before swooning and falling to the ground, it is perhaps fitting that none other than Dr. Evil should come to our rescue.   Somebody had to do it.  These cowardly Dems couldn’t even see to it that Al Franken was given the due process he deserved.   Oh no, the party of the weak and neurotic was only too eager to help boot Franken out the door.

Can’t wait for Mini-Me to get here.  With Donald, the Doctor will need all the support he can get.  FDR, Teddy Kennedy and now even Al Franken are unfortunately,  long gone.

Sally Yates Is On Target

“That’s why Democratic and Republican administrations alike, at least since Watergate, have honored that the rule of law requires a strict separation between the Justice Department and the White House on criminal cases and investigations. This wall of separation is what ensures the public can have confidence that the criminal process is not being used as a sword to go after one’s political enemies or as a shield to protect those in power. It’s what separates us from an autocracy.” – Sally Yates

Ms. Yates words are reminiscent of another “wall of separation” that once existed between editorial and sales in the news business, a wall that prevented advertisers from dictating what we the people were being allowed to know.   A wall no less important to the preservation of freedom than the wall that’s supposed to be in place at the Justice Dept. Her words also remind me of the founder’s worries that merchant-bankers would one day control the country, unless they were prevented from doing so by yet another “wall,” one that bit by bit has been torn down over the past many years with little or no recognition from the media with regard to the issue’s very real threat to Democracy.

To wit:

“And I sincerely believe with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies…” -Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John  Taylor in 1816.

And that dear friends, brings us to another wall, one that was thoughtlessly torn asunder by the United States Supreme Court in its  “Citizens United” decision in 2010, opening the floodgates on limitless injections of money into political campaigns coming from any number of both non-profit and commercial enterprises, such as (dare we even think it?) Russian oligarchs and banks filtering their cash through others so as to be nearly impossible to trace?

It is entirely possible that foreign entities, to an unknown degree, now own us.  They have been permitted to buy our political process, thereby giving them a degree of power over those who write our laws and control our freedoms.  It’s what you get when the wall between commercial and investment banking is knocked down and anything resembling reasonable campaign finance reform is but a distant memory.

You get a campaign infiltrated by political operatives with Russian connections and an Attorney General who is fired from her job after warning her boss the president that the Russians aren’t just coming, they are here, and that his executive order on travel and immigration, might not be lawful.

Sally Yates,  was, and continues to be, on target.  Donald J. Trump, in his apparent refusal to listen to the best and brightest around him and then showing himself to be unwilling to act on the best information available has repeatedly been unable to hit the broad side of a barn with a  load of buckshot.

(Sally Yates, served as Deputy United States Attorney General and then Acting United States Attorney General, until being fired by Donald J. Trump in January of 2017.)

A Christmas Revelation

Over the past thirty years or so the national agenda has been moved so far to the right by fear, misinformation and disinformation that conservatives like George Will and Bill Kristol now sound like moderates.

Even if the Republicans lose the House and Senate in 2018 and the White House in 2020,  conservative forces in the U.S. will have moved the nation so far toward neo-feudalism, that it will take decades before Americans again feel comfortable with anything resembling a common good, or acceptance without guilt,  that peace is preferable to militarism and that Christians everywhere have a responsibility to care for one another regardless of their ability to provide proof of insurance.

Thoughts On Trump, God, The FBI, And The Death Of American Democracy

Recent developments beg the question:  “Can our traditionally democratic way of life survive what’s happening?”  Purely insane developments like the White House issuing orders to the Centers for Disease Control, dictating  that some words and phrases like “fetus” and “science based” can no longer be part of any wording the CDC uses in budget documents with the Congress.

This is of course, Orwellian.   Power brokers with a totally ideological agenda are dictating what our scientists can and cannot tell the nation’s lawmakers.    It’s crazy.   It’s also dangerous.  Imposing a political or religious ideology on science undermines everything science should be.   Except for those who think humans cohabited the planet with dinosaurs and that non-heterosexuals should pray the gay away.

It’s all about keeping lawmakers in the dark.  Limiting what they are permitted to know.  Just as so many Americans are being limited by the “thought police” of right-wing media.   It’s like beating the stuffings out of millions of people each day and then convincing them that it’s in their best interest to have their entrails scattered about on the ground.

A wonderful word coined by the late, great Steve Allen continues coming to mind.  The word is “Dumbth.”  He used it for the title of one of his books.  The book’s full title is, “Dumbth:  The Lost Art of Thinking With 101 Ways to Reason Better & Improve Your Mind.”   He wrote it twenty years ago.   Since then, things have gotten worse as some in our political and media establishments have taken to using disinformation tactics that could be straight out of an old KGB playbook.   Or the pages of Orwell’s “1984.”

Does Trump have any idea what he’s actually saying when he says it?   At this point does it even matter as he threatens to tear down the very American institution that may be all that stands between our freedom and the ever-increasing control of the American political process by Oligarchs, some of whom represent the very worst that Russia has to offer?

Donald J. Trump, attacked the FBI, saying, “It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI, but we’re gonna rebuild the FBI. It’ll be bigger and better than ever,” Trump trumpeted. “But it is very sad when you look at those documents, and how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful. And you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it. It’s a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that.”

Donald Trump is going to “rebuild” the FBI?    This is the same man who had a chief adviser in the person of Steve Bannon,  who promised “deconstruction of the administrative state.”   He might as well have been direct about it and called it the end of American democracy through the destruction of our national institutions.

It now sounds as though Donald Trump wants to tear down the FBI, rebuilding it into an organization that will be more Trump friendly while he continues turning so many federal agencies into paper tigers, the obvious objective being the elimination of regulation to the point that no one stands between the American people and the desires of predatory capitalists who care little or nothing for traditional American principles, only for greed on a multi-national scale as they continue extracting the wealth of America.

Don’t worry about running out of cash in your golden years, you will be able to get a reverse mortgage while making only minimum payments on your credit card debt.

That’s what this is really all about, you know.  Extracting our wealth.  Dylan Ratigan, had it nailed years ago, before leaving MSNBC, where he frequently refused to suffer fools gladly.   Extract the wealth.  Suck us all dry, until the Oligarchs and the multi-nationals have it all, leaving the huddled masses wondering what happened.  Wondering why the corporate controlled media didn’t come to their defense sooner in the process.

Why would Donald J. Trump be so contemptuous of an American institution whose purpose is to put criminals, liars and thieves behind bars?   To ferret out enemies of the nation who would seek to control and otherwise overthrow us?   Perhaps, like so many of his disciples,  he simply accepts an explanation that suits his purpose, biased, bigoted and bloated though it might be.

Dumbth.

The weak-minded accept the disinformation that flows from various nonsense peddlers on the far right, that Robert Mueller’s purpose is political rather than legal (as in rule of law) and is therefore corrupt.

Trump is transferring his motives and traits to the FBI as he and his media mavens of the right proclaim the truth to be fake news.  This is, again, disinformation, and it’s right out of the old KGB playbook.  But will he somehow pull off firing Mueller,  hindering the Russia investigation to the point that the American people will never get to the truth?   And if he does, will what’s left of our democracy be able to survive this current onslaught of deceit?

Could be that it’s already too late.

Some very heavy thinkers at Princeton and Northwestern University believe American democracy may be a thing of the past.   A study published in 2014 by  Princeton University Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Professor Benjamin I. Page, concludes, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”   

This won’t come as a shock to many.   It certainly won’t be anything new to those thinkers who lie awake nights wondering how much time we have left before our national denial abandons us and the ruse of American democracy is laid bare for all to see – leaving us alone and naked, nose to nose with the devil.   And then what the hell will we do?   Or are we already there and doing little or nothing?

Our biggest issue right now may be that a majority of America knows what’s going on.  That the Republican tax bill is a sham for the wealthy, that cutting Medicare and Social Security is a real bad idea, that the Internet needs to be beyond the reach of corporate control and that our federal government has been bought and paid for by those very same interests highlighted by Prof’s Gilens and Page.

So who’s going to do something about it?   Certainly not some old white guy on Capitol Hill,  sweating bullets as he counts his monthly campaign contributions and waits for sexual abuse allegations to begin arriving from alleged victims he can’t remember.

The hard cold truth, is that the American agenda is no longer being driven by the American people.   With a Russian loving oligarch in the White House and members of Congress swimming in corporate cash this could be one last national nightmare from which there is no awakening.   We’ll find out at the polls in 2018.  And maybe, just maybe, God willing, Trump won’t make it to 2020, leaving us with Mike Pence, who could be nearly as bad but hopefully not worse, as he won’t start out by surrounding himself with Russians and their money.

I don’t personally believe that men walked the Earth with dinosaurs but when things are this bad I’ll call down help from wherever I can find it.   If God wants Donald Trump impeached, I’ll take it.   And all those Bible beating Evangelicals in the South will have to take it too.  Amen.

Dems Throw Al Franken Under The Bus

Is it safe to say anything remotely good about Al Franken?  Particularly if you happen to be a man and even with his record of support for women’s issues in Congress?

Is it safe to even suggest that he was abandoned by his party and apparently his base back in Minnesota, before being given a fair hearing before the Ethics Committee?

Is it safe to imagine that not each and every one of his accusers was credible, and seeing how the potential of what were mostly unproven accusations doesn’t come close to what’s been proven about the leadership on the Republican side, that his party and base should have withheld judgment until the Ethics Committee had been permitted to hold hearings on the matter, hearings Franken had requested?

Is it reasonable to even suggest that the Democrats have lost one of their best and brightest by their own hand, while the opposition continues to support and promote the very worst the Republican Party has to offer?

Perhaps Franken did some of what his accusers are saying.  Does that merit treating him like a rapist, with the loss of his career, not to mention a future of being labeled a groping masher for the rest of his life?   And there is no proof he groped anybody.  There’s just a photo showing him mimicking a grope during an entertainment tour.  Bad taste?  Yes?  But that’s all.  Why is he being treated like a child molester?   The woman making the charges is a right-winger, and she’s accepted his apology.  Come on Democrats, get over it.   There isn’t a man alive who hasn’t done something he doesn’t regret.  In both parties.

It’s okay to suggest that men need to respect women and that there is a process going forward that will hopefully make us all better at respecting one another, but isn’t it also possible that Al Franken may have been crushed by a rush to judgment?   Is it safe for Democrats who were so eager to abandon Franken to even discuss both sides of this issue while Republicans continue to say anything about anybody, no matter how outrageous, in their blind push to win?

Of course we need to listen to what women have to say, but we also have to try and determine whether some of those same women might be political operatives out to control the system by torpedoing careers.

You don’t win a political war by throwing one of your best fighters under the bus based upon a pack of mostly unproven allegations.

Is it okay for me to say I don’t feel so hot about being a Democrat right now?   In fact, I’d leave the party and go back to being an independent were it not for the antiquated closed primary system here in Maryland.

 

The Alternate Reality That Is America

Charlie Rose is fired for being sexually abusive to women while some Alabamians think it’s okay to elect a a man to Congress who pursued teenage girls at the local mall while serving as district attorney?

A Russian-loving  Donald Trump, elected as President of the United States and continuing to hold office while his family does business with unknown entities all over the world?

Russian bot-farms, doing all they can to rig American elections and set Americans against one-another, while much of the Congress has been bought off by the highest bidders with the American people having no clear idea of who they might be?

Nazis and Klan members marching with torches in the streets of Charlottesville, chanting “Jews will not replace us?”

Black Americans must fear being shot if they’re pulled over for a minor traffic violation while black athletes are condemned for “taking a knee” to show their opposition to the way African-Americans are singled out by law enforcement and the American justice system in general while the privitization of the prison system lines the pockets of wealthy investors?

Americans decry the explosive problem of opioid addiction and condemn anyone who promotes the idea of decriminalization even while the evidence points to treating addiction as a medical problem rather than a crime appears to be the closest thing we have to  a solution?

This is getting to be too damn much. We’re living in some bizarre alternate reality wherein rumor, disinformation and emotion are being placed above fact and critical thinking.  Most frightening of all are the millions of misinformed, disinformed and fearful Americans who make such easy targets for those who would permanently corrupt both our institutions and the American ideal.

No doubt about it, this is a test.

A Cure For Addiction Banned In The U.S.?

 

Thought I was pretty up to date on things, until today, when I first heard of the drug “Ibogaine.” Not a drug actually, but apparently a naturally occurring psychedelic substance that cures heroin and other opioid addictions?

I heard about it while watching “Law & Order, SVU.” Sounded too good to be true so I Googled it and found it to be a real substance, and for some, apparently a real cure for addiction.  I found a clinic in Mexico, that offers Ibogaine treatments ranging in price from  $9,000 to $30,000.

According to the tv show, and some of what I found on the Internet, Ibogaine is not legal in the U.S., because big-pharma makes more money from treating addiction than curing it.

If this is true, then it is one of the more outrageous aspects of the negligence exibited by our broken federal government.

Again, if it is true, one wonders what other cures are possibly being withheld from an unsuspecting public because it is more profitable to treat disease than to cure it?   Additionally, if there are dangers associated with the clinical use of Ibogaine, what motivation does big-pharma have to develop its safe use, if it will mean a drop in profits?

A Brief Period Of Relief As Trump Leaves The Country

Sleep, blessed sleep.  It’s easy to forget how necessary it is to our well being until we are forced to go without it – an experience many of us have been suffering through since the election of this current Russian-aligned occupant of the White House.

Thanks to Robert Mueller and the FBI,  responsible and patriotic adults are once again asserting control over the federal government through the rule of law, and many of us can once again get a little sleep.   The kind of deep sleep your body needs.   The kind that helps you heal the wounds, both psychic and physical, that life regularly inflicts.  Particularly so, when there is no doubt that our government is under attack by a foreign power, determined to tear down our democratic institutions brick by brick.

This morning, as Donald Trump boarded Air Force One for a trip to Asia, I was reminded of Richard Nixon’s departure for Egypt in 1974, as the weight of accountability for the Watergate break-in and cover-up was approaching its inevitable conclusion.    Two months later, Nixon would resign.

Real or imagined, it just feels better when people like Nixon or Trump get on a plane and get out of the country.   And Trump will be gone for eleven days.   Like Nixon, he must have really needed to get away.

True, they can do a whole lot of damage overseas, but somehow it just feels better, not being on the same continent with those who stand in opposition to all that is pure and best about America.

Even now, while writing this, it occurs to me that it may be unfair, comparing Nixon to Trump, as Trump is so much worse than Richard Nixon ever was, simply by reason of Trump’s inability to be anything resembling “presidential,” or his obvious inclination to dance with the devil, in a constant waltz with Vladimir Putin and his fascist state.   I’m fairly certain Nixon, would never have gone there.  He simply couldn’t have.  The Republican base, at that time, simply was not gullible enough to fall for a Russian-loving commander in chief.

As with Richard Nixon, the truth will eventually prove to be Donald Trump’s nemesis, as the FBI investigation continues into this current Administration’s ties to Russia and their possible collusion with the Russian Government.   We will get to the truth, because we are a free people with a system that is stronger than any one person or party.    That is to say, we should be allowed to get to the truth.

Should any one person or party attempt to shut down the investigation, then that one person or party will be more than suspect.  That one person or party will be signaling that they are, in all likelihood, guilty of committing treason against the United States by their effort to cover up the Trump Administration’s ties to the Russians.  Ties that are becoming all the more apparent with the passage of time.

Certain parties are already suspect by their obvious and disgusting determination to stop congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election from moving forward.

Let’s hope the Mueller investigation is allowed to run its course.  That it is permitted to reveal the truth to the American people, and that Donald J. Trump doesn’t drag the nation into another war as the ultimate diversion, before Mr. Mueller and the FBI are able to complete the task before them.

Until then, we do at least have hope, and along with it, the ability to once again get a decent night’s sleep as Robert Mueller and the FBI, follow the money.    Adults dealing with what’s true and real as opposed to the alternative reality of Mr. Trump and his childlike supporters, who live in a world of disinformation, misinformation, delusion and denial.    A world increasingly influenced by Vladimir Putin and his oligarch friends, none of whom desire Democracy.

Somewhere, Putin Is Smiling

The uprising in Catalan may have a nexus with Russia.  Or, it may not.  Shouldn’t somebody be trying to figure it out?   The Spanish Government maybe?  Or the CIA?

Looking back on the way the Russian Government usurped the government of Ukraine,  followed by its criminal taking of Crimea through the use of military force,  one must conclude that Putin’s Russia has a well-laid plan for interfering in other countries businesses, territories and general well-being.   Well, of course they do.    They’ve been in the expansion through espionage business big-time since Nikita Khrushchev threatened to bury us while banging his size ten Soviet-made wingtip on the Russian ambassador’s desk at the UN.

The introduction of our current information age and the  technological highway of the Internet make it all the easier for Putin and his “bot farms” to interfere, be it turning Brits to favor the “Brexit” through disinformation or American voters to favor Donald Trump because of a whole lot of fabricated nonsense many of them were led to believe was true.

It’s important to remember the role played by Paul Manafort in Ukraine and then in the U.S. election.   In 2005, Manafort acted as an adviser to Ukranian billionaire, Rinat Akhmetov, an ally of Vladimir Putin.   Manafort, who is said to be a protege of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripraska,  eventually became a principle adviser to Ukraine’s former President,  Russian-backed Viktor Yanukovych (another ally of Vladimir Putin), who escaped to (guess where?) Russia, following the Orange Revolution.    With Manafort, there appears to be another Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin around every corner.

So when Donald Trump needed someone to run his presidential campaign, who appeared like magic from out of nowhere?  Paul Manafort, who slipped effortlessly into the role of Trump’s campaign manager, even while many were scratching their heads wondering who the hell he was.

Even now, Donald Trump steadfastly refuses to say anything negative about Putin or the Russians and is currently stalling on levying sanctions against the Russians for interfering with American elections.  Really?  And there are those among us who still haven’t been able to connect the dots?

When fake news is real, and real news is fake, who ya gonna believe?  Very clever, these Russians.

There’s an interesting piece in today’s Guardian, entitled, “Our pain for their gain’:  The American activists manipulated by Russian trolls.”   The piece points out that what Russia has been up to goes far beyond simply placing phony ads on Facebook or creating fake news.    According to the newspaper, “This week, a Moscow-based news outlet called RBC uncovered the work of a troll factory that infiltrated US social networks, with Russians posing as Americans and making payments to legitimate activists in the US, directly funding protest movements. The revelations suggest that the Russian operation went beyond spamming online comment sections and spreading false news – and that a sophisticated interference campaign manipulated, controlled and created real-world events.”

So we’re up to that.   Putin and his people are now using disinformation, misinformation and cash funding to create “real-world events.”  And the victims don’t even know they are being victimized.   Possibly like what happened to the Brits with their Brexit and maybe even the uprising in Catalonia?   Oh sure, the Catalans have had a beef with Spain for decades, but why such a big blowout right now, with Brexit, Korea, Venezuela, Iraq and Iran all in the international mix?  Might not Russia be a least partially responsible?

The United States would normally be taking the lead in trying to ferret out precisely what the Russians are up to.  To what degree they influenced our last election and are now attempting to throw the world’s democracies into chaos, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.  Not to the degree to which it should.

Alarm bells should be going off all over Capitol Hill, and in the White House.  And they would be, were it not for our Putin-loving president who looks more and more Manchurian as the days and months roll agonizingly by and much of America remains in denial about it all, either because they have been mesmerized by Donald Trump and an endless stream of Russian propaganda or they simply can’t begin to grasp what’s happening because it is just too complicated.

Somewhere within the bowels of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin is undoubtedly smiling that snarky little smile of his, as he contemplates the international chaos he has created.

Shouldn’t somebody be trying to figure it out?   How much of the current chaos is Russian based?   To what degree are we all being played for suckers by Vladimir Putin?    How far will Trump go to cover this charade?   Will he take the nation to war?   Who will stop him?

Robert Muller and his investigation could be the only thing standing between the United States and a Russian threat some don’t want to believe is real.   We can only hope there are those who can still feel the fire of patriotism.  Those with the strength of what America truly is, to force the Muller investigation forward to a legitimate conclusion.   If not, our great American experiment could be finished.  A thought too terrible for many to even consider, making it all the more important for all of us to get our heads up out of the sand and demand the truth.

Questions For The Journalists Among Us

-It’s being reported that the four Americans ambushed (apparently) by ISIS in Niger, had only small arms, but were up against fighters with machine guns and rocket launchers.  Where was American intelligence?  Why were American soldiers sent out to walk into a meat grinder the U.S. military should have been aware of?  It’s also reported that French jets that flew in to assist American troops were not allowed by the Government of Niger to open fire on the ISIS fighters, so they had to make low-level flights, “buzzing” the ISIS fighters in an effort to disperse them. Why? Whose side is Niger on?  Where is Trey Gowdy, now that he’s actually needed?   Trey needs to invest just a fraction of the time and money he and his Republican colleagues wasted on the non-existent Benghazi question in trying to determine why American special forces were allowed to be ambushed in Niger and then had no air support once it happened.   But that won’t happen, will it?   Because Benghazi was all about politics and determining what went wrong in Niger might embarrass the Trump White House, even though an investigation might save American lives in the future.   Come on, Trey.  You can do it.   Put country ahead of your party and personal campaign funds.    Determine the degree to which the Russians may have contributed to the Benghazi controversy in their march to disrupt our democracy.   Or what’s left of it. 

-That man who is now under arrest for allegedly killing three people at a granite store in Edgewood, Maryland and wounding three others in Edgewood and Wilmington, Delaware on the 18th, 37 year old Radee Prince, has a lengthy police record. Most troubling, is why, after spending years in prison for multiple counts of burglary (CNN reports 42 arrests including 15 felony convictions), and then being detained by police in Cecil County, Maryland, in 2015 after he was found to be a felon in possession of a firearm and having a firearm in his vehicle, the State’s Attorney in Cecil County decided not to file any charges? They let him walk?  Seriously?   Would charges being filed in 2015 have prevented the slaughter in Edgewood, in 2017?

-The Daily Beast reports that members of the Trump Campaign including Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump, Jr. and the director of Trump’s digital campaign effort, re-tweeted lies that were being produced by a Russian bot farm. It appears one of these disinformation campaigns may have swung the vote for Trump in Florida.   Really?   When will spineless Republicans in Congress stop betraying the nation and begin impeachment proceedings?  How much more can they possibly need?  When will their denial come to an end?

The History Making March That Never Was

My wife got up this morning asking whether I knew about the march in New York over the weekend.   “No,” I said, I did not, even though I read everything I can get my hands on and watch a broad variety of tv news programs, both foreign and domestic.

The march, according to my wife’s network of progressive to moderate Facebook friends, took place on Saturday.   More than one-hundred psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals were marching to call attention to their concern about the mental health of Donald J. Trump.  This was, to the best of my knowledge, a historical first for the United States, and maybe the world.  This alone, makes the event not just newsworthy, but highly newsworthy.

We’re not talking about some goofy leftover Hippies here, or twenty-first century saboteurs throwing stink bombs and spraying graffiti.   No, these were educated and credentialed mental health professionals.  Presumably some of the best minds our society has produced.

I’m sure someone must have done some reporting on it, although I recall scanning the papers over the weekend and turning on the network news Saturday night, only to find it had been bumped by football.  A nation and its networks must have priorities, and we do love our football, don’t we?  And all those lovely advertising dollars?  So what’s a little news, more or less?   Or an informed public?

A group of twenty-seven mental health professionals, presumably some of the same psychiatrists and psychologists that were marching in New York on Saturday, have also written a book entitled,  “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.”   If you missed the march, you can always read the book.  Chances are you didn’t hear about it on the network news.   They also have a “Duty To Warn” website.   You probably won’t hear about that on the news, either.