Who Doesn’t Love A Good War?

The words of George W. Bush keep coming back, our forty-third president saying, “I’m a war president,  I make decisions here in the oval office…in foreign policy matters with war on my mind.”   

And then he took us into Iraq, shoring up his presidency for two full terms.  His approval rating which at one point stood at 90% eventually tanked at 25% shortly before leaving office.  It took us a long time to get there but eventually most of America decided that George W., wasn’t so hot after all.

And now comes Donald J. Trump, who, after six years of civilian slaughter in Syria from barrel bombs and chemical warfare suddenly realizes babies are being killed and announces, “The world’s a mess, and we’re gonna fix it.”  

How is it possible that Donald Trump, who has admitted he gets his news from television, has missed hundreds of reports over a half-dozen years about the carnage waged by Bashar al-Assad against the people of Syria?   Has he suddenly forgotten his tweets, advising former President Obama to “stay the hell out of Syria?”   Of course not.  It isn’t possible.  Therefore, Trump’s affectation caused by recently seeing “babies” being killed in Syria, is an act.   He knew the word “babies” would resonate, so he used it repeatedly.  There is no other explanation.  It’s nothing but a con, the same thing he did when he sent his “investigators” to Hawaii to check out Mr. Obama’s birth certificate or he saw “thousands” cheering when the twin towers came down in New York.   It’s the same old Donald,  except this time he wants us to believe he was emotionally torn after seeing babies being attacked in Syria.

Then, after notifying the Russian military, presumably giving them time to  get their people out of the way,  he launched fifty nine cruise missiles, not on a primary, top of the line airfield in Syria, but an older less important airfield, allegedly used to launch the gas attack on Syrian citizens just days earlier.

There’s no question about the need to stop the violence in the Middle East and North Africa, a fight between warlords and religious factions that’s been going on for more than a thousand years.   The real question is whether it’s realistic to believe the United States, or any other country,  can get it done militarily.

The Obama Administration, had apparently pretty much decided that the only permanent solution would have to be diplomatic, an idea that was not addressed by the hawkish Senator John McCain on one of this morning’s talk shows, as he appeared nearly giddy with joy over the missile strike in Syria – which will accomplish what?  What does Donald Trump do now?

With no easy answers a couple of things are apparent.   One is that George W. Bush’s Administration was buoyed by Bush declaring himself to be America’s “wartime president.”   The other is that “Russiagate” will probably be less of a problem for Donald Trump following the missile attack on Syria.   Like Bush, Trump’s numbers will undoubtedly get a positive bump now that he’s taken military action.

With media reaction that the attack he ordered was “swift” and “decisive,”  on the one hand to “smart” and proportional,” on the other, one wonders how Mr. Trump, who feeds off of approval like a child craving candy, will react.

We went into Afghanistan and Iraq with Vietnam-era warriors warning us against taking on any military engagement without an exit strategy.    We were promised that we wouldn’t get stuck in a military quagmire,  but that’s exactly what happened.  The promises of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are now all but forgotten and to this day there appears to be no end-game in sight, only violence begetting more violence with the ever-present danger of the world’s largest military-industrial complex gobbling up taxpayer dollars as it defines our goals to be anything but diplomatic.

Diplomacy,  after all, is so messy, shot through with setbacks and difficult to understand.   Warfare, on the other hand, is easy to understand.  These people are killing babies.  How can anybody argue against stopping that?  And besides, who doesn’t love a good war?

 

Trump’s Approval Drops To 35% – Who Are These People?

Trumpty Dumpty has scheduled a a rare news conference to take place at one eastern.  I am very much concerned that he will be announcing what he and his minions see as the biggest diversion of all, something that will make Russiagate go away forever, possibly involving the war in Syria with Russian complications or war with North Korea with Chinese complications.

Keith Olbermann, and any number of others, have argued that DJT may be certifiably nuts. I’m afraid that may be the case.   He is liable to say anything.  God knows what he might say next.

What if he takes us to war with North Korea (again),  China stays out and we win?  He would be a hero, right?  Americans love a winner, right?   That might seal the deal for a full two terms of Trump.  Like George W. Bush, Trump’s Administration will have been saved by taking the country to war.

Thing is, North Korea is not Iraq and China might not stay out, which opens the door on international chaos, something far worse than if we were able to contain the conflict to the Korean Peninsula.

You have to wonder about the various elements that lead to success. Oh sure, people do just get lucky, like those who win the lottery.   But beyond luck, you have to wonder how so many people who appear to be lacking in smarts are able to acquire vast wealth and power?   Even those who are born into it, like Trump, have to hang onto it somehow.

A former colleague once told me it’s because they are too stupid to realize the odds are monumentally stacked against them, so they blast head-on into high risk situations with no concern for losing.   Or they are just fooling around, thinking there’s no way they can possibly win, and then when they do they get all puffed up with their success.

Could that be Trump?   Too stupid to understand the potential consequences of his actions, and now we are forced to go along for the ride in this road trip to hell?    A new Quinnipiac Poll shows his approval rating falling to just 35%.   Who are these people?

The news conference is at one o’clock.   The world will be watching.   I wonder if he understands what that means?   Or if he thinks that should he screw it up, he’ll be able to fix it with a tweet?

##########

Add:   It was just announced that Steve Bannon has been booted off the National Security Council, and that the Nat’l Intelligence Director and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, will once again be “regular attendees.”   Move in the right direction!  Could it be that with the North Koreans test firing missiles into the sea and Syria gassing its own people, that somebody got in Donald’s face and gave him a hefty dose of reality?   Is it possible the adults are making a comeback in DC?   Probably not.

It’s more probable, based upon past experience, that the Donald is mostly focused on blowing as much smoke as possible to divert our attention away from the fact that so much of his former inner circle was in regular contact with the Russians.   His latest target in a long string of meaningless diversions is President Obama’s National Security Adviser,  Susan Rice.   Mr. Trump has just suggested that she may have broken a law.  Gee, no kidding?   And maybe she didn’t?   But in the meantime we are once again diverted from the investigation into the Russian connection while this president continues to prove himself and by association The United States of America, all of us,  to be without credibility as the FBI continues its investigation into whether the Administration of Donald J. Trump, or Mr. Trump himself, has broken the law.   That’s the real question.   Not something that may or may not have taken place during past administrations.

Okay, the news conference is underway.   Here’s your Trumpian quote for the day, “The world is a mess, and we’re gonna fix it.”  This, from a man who couldn’t live up to his oft-repeated promise to immediately “repeal and replace” Obamacare.   And now he’s gonna fix the world.  Oh my.  He appears to actually believe it.  Somebody call a therapist.

 

Trump Considers Resignation – Protection Against Internet Spies – Pence Prays While Waiting In The Wings Avoiding Women

And so we arrive at April of 2017, apparently marking  the end of our privacy on the Internet.    Or so we’ve been led to believe.  Well, another significant chunk of it has been eaten away anyway as the Republicans have passed a bill rolling back the regulation stopping internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Verizon, from selling information about what we do online.   But not really.   Not just yet, anyway.

The PBS Newshour reports that the regulation stopping ISP’s  from selling your browsing history wasn’t scheduled to take effect, “until December of 2017…..So the bill passed on Tuesday simply blocks those rules from taking effect.”   Wired reporter, Kent Finley, told the Newshour, ““Mostly it means that internet service providers now have the go-ahead to sell data,” Finley explained. “It was already technically legal, but if any companies were holding off on doing it while they waited to see if the laws went into effect or not, they don’t have to wait anymore.”  

Thank you, Donald.

It’s another really smart move, like letting coal companies dump sludge into the creek that flows into the river that ends up coming out of your kitchen faucet.   With Trump, it’s one bad idea right after another, from letting his rich-kids daughter and son-in-law move in as two of his top advisers, to giving Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort access to the highest levels of government while he digs his own political grave because he can’t resist the urge to send out tweet after tweet digging the hole deeper and deeper.   Dumb, dumb, dumb,dumb……..

Somebody hoisted the flag of common sense the other day when they remarked that it could be that “these guys just aren’t very smart.”   How smart do you have to be when your father hands you a fortune for startup money and then hands you another when he dies?

While we wait for the inevitable implosion,  there is something we can do to protect ourselves from our ISP’s spying on our every move (which they might be doing right now, although they say they aren’t).

I can’t speak to how well it works, but the Opera browser, has something called a “virtual private network” built into its functionality and it’s free.   You need only to activate it after downloading and installing the browser.   My only complaint about Opera, is that there is no home button, but that’s easily resolved by going to the home page you want and then dragging and dropping it into the bookmarks bar at the top of the page.   I’m using it and it’s reassuring to see the little blue VPN box at the front of the address bar, indicating that I have at least done something to try and avoid letting someone sell my browsing history to God know who.  There are also any number of companies offering to give you access to their virtual private networks for a fee.  I use the AVIRA Antivirus, which offers their VPN  for $6.50 a month on an annual plan.   They also have a free version which allows only a limited amount of data.

Let me take a brief time out to once again thank Donald Trump, for all he has done and continues to do for all of us out here on Main Street, while, according to Donald Trump, Jr., the family can rest easy with its history of “money pouring in from Russia.”  

Ivanka and Jared just released a financial disclosure form that shows their net worth to be around $700-million.

If the progressives have it right, we may not have to suffer through the missteps, lies and mental meanderings of Mr. Donald for an entire first term.   “Occupy Democrats” are reporting out that generally reliable sources say (I know, I know…..it may be just wishful thinking) that Trumpty Dumpty is considering several options, and that resignation is among them.  Oh sweet dreams.  Please, let it be true.  But then what?

Then we’ll be left with that Vampire Albino guy, Mike Pence, who can’t start his day without first going to Mass and refuses to eat dinner alone with any woman other than his wife, because he apparently can’t handle the temptations of sex.  Really?   Just for dinner?

I don’t care for extremists at either end of the spectrum, but what is it with these Republicans with regard to sex and religion?   Why do so many of them appear to be stuck in emotional and intellectual purgatory?  Good luck with your new VPN.

 

(I know today is April Fools Day, but all of the above is, to the best of my knowledge, true.  Really.)

Speculate No More – Russia Targeted Hillary Clinton

The following comments were make by California Senator Dianne Feinstein,  ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on March 30, 2017.

“I’ve been on this committee for sixteen years and the intelligence community report, which is the report of all our major intelligence agencies…..released on January the 6th, is among the strongest I’ve read.  

It covers the motivation and the scope of Russia’s actions regarding our elections, as well as the cyber-tools and the media campaigns they used to influence public opinion.  The report makes a key judgment, and here it is:  Russian President Vladimir Putin, ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the United States presidential election – the consistent goals of which, were to undermine public faith in the United States democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, harm her electability, and potential presidency.  

It further assesses that, and these are quotes, ‘Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.'”  

-Sen. Dianne Feinstein

The Donald, Apparently Missing Too Much Golf, Appoints President Kushner

 

Just when you think it’s all whacked out, the Trump Administration keeps getting whackier.    It’s beginning to feel like one of those old Looney Tunes cartoons, with one crackpot character chasing another around the room smashing him over the head with a giant mallet while screaming, “Woo-hoo!  Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo!”    That’s the Trump Administration.   Every day there’s some new crackpot revelation.   “Woo-hoo!  Woo-hoo!  Woo-hoo!”

The latest nutso move is that Mr. Donald has appointed his son-in-law, a 36 year-old rich kid from Manhattan, to lead “The Office of American Innovation.”   According to the Washington Post,  “The 36-year-old former real estate and media executive will continue to wear many hats, driving foreign and domestic policy as well as decisions on presidential personnel. He also is a shadow diplomat, serving as Trump’s lead adviser on relations with China, Mexico, Canada and the Middle East.”   Part of his role as key adviser on Mexico will apparently be overseeing construction of his daddy-in-law’s Mexican border wall.  So President Kushner, will be charged with reorganizing the Federal Government while big daddy golfs at Mara-la-go.   Oh, that’ll be exciting.  “Woo-hoo!”

Oh yes, the rich kid from Manhattan will understand and empathize with the financial woes of middle America and the needs of the elderly and the rural poor.   He will fix our inner-cities based upon his broad base of knowledge gained from first hand experience. Jared rules!  “Woo-hoo!”

Do you suppose the old man is dumping all this on the kid so that he’ll have someone to blame when it all falls to pieces like the healthcare bill?

Bad enough that an ongoing undercover agent for the trump transition team Devin (Woo-hoo!) Nunes,  has all but shut down the House inquiry into Russian interference in the last election, canceling what was to be an open hearing scheduled for today (“Woo-hoo!) so that the American people might at least get some idea of what the hell is going on as everything seems to keep pointing back at the Russians.

Question:  Where are the Democrats?   What are the Democrats?  Are they, as Garrison Keillor has suggested, “out in the woods bumping into trees?”   They should be mad as hell and screaming their lungs out, demanding that Nunes be immediately removed as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.   They should be angry as hell, infuriated as they push back with all they have for a Special Prosecutor to look into Russian influence peddling (control) of our executive branch to be followed by a 9-11 style commission to determine what actually happened so as to prevent it from happening again.

The Democrats, are being far to civil about all of this.  They are far too nice.   Waaaay too mice.  Er…nice.  Sorry about the slip.  Donald J. Trump, who is apparently tired of being President, is turning over the reigns of his office to his son-in-law.   Another silver spoon in his mouth kid, with no real experience in politics or government who is now being told to come up with a plan to reorganize the American Government?    “Woo-hoo” everybody!

The other night one of Bill Maher’s guests said it best, when he compared these contemporary Republicans to Hamas.   Hamas, will not recognize Israel and the Republicans have no interest in compromise for mutual benefit.  These are base, primal and utterly greedy people.   The only thing they understand is being hit back harder than they are hitting you.  It is the only way to make them stop as we sink deeper and deeper into what has become a daily dose of madness.   What’s next?   Waking up to hear that the Donald has set aside the Constitution, because it isn’t businesslike enough for him?  Who’ll stop him?  The Victorian ladies and gentlemen of the Democratic Party?

Dear Democrats.    An investigation into Russian influence has been shut down by one congressman, apparently on the orders of the White House.   A move is underway to dismantle our nation.   We don’t know that Russian influence is not involved.  At the same time a 36 year-old kid with known business ties to Russia and little or no other government experience has been told to draw up a plan for reorganizing the government.    Steve Bannon, a key adviser to the President, who is apparently a fan of Vladimir Lenin,  has admitted he has a plan for the deconstruction “of the administrative state.”

Shot through all of this is the utterly undeniable fact that Donald J. Trump has yet to condemn Vladimir Putin and his autocratic Russian oligarchy for hacking into our electoral process.   Much to the contrary, President Trump has had almost nothing but praise for Putin and his Russian dictatorship.   At times it feels as though Trump is part of the Putin team.

Those who voted for Trump and  who continue to support him, obviously had no idea what they were getting us into.  There now appears to be a very basic question of Democracy vs. Oligarchy, or maybe even war between the United States and the Russian Mafia. Admitting this to ourselves may be necessary to preserve our way of life.

This is no longer funny or even interesting.  This has gone way beyond anything resembling business as usual.  This is (or should be) scaring the hell out of people.  It is time for you to get tough.   Teddy Kennedy tough.  Ike Eisenhower tough.  FDR tough.

The ship is going down.   Stop rearranging deck chairs and start bailing.

Poem For The Body Politic

 

Head spinning in disbelief

Losing sleep

Over Russian creep

The more you know

The heavier the burden

Today’s truth

Is tomorrow’s lie

Incomplete tweets

Rally the base

A beautiful and free tomorrow

A message delivered with ease

With tease and please

Freedom in sound bites

Freedom from healthcare

Freedom from rule of law

Freedom from taxation

Freedom to hire private security

Sitting on your stoop

Shotgun in hand

Waiting for a neighbor to steal your food

Pay for your own

Fire protection

Schooling

Libraries

Airports

Fresh air and clean water

Toll roads

Privatize to legitimize

Tear it all down

Let God sort it out

The only civilization left

Government officials

And the military

Controlling angry crowds

War, fear, hatred, ignorance

All that’s left of what we were

Our last remaining civilized thinking

Leaving us with no civilization at all

Just rule by the rich

Oligarchs and Oilgarchs

Who pay nothing

To do what they will

In a big house

On the top of the hill

Their private army stands guard

While we wander naked

Divided and alone

With that which they sold us

And told us

Was freedom

Only to find

That there wasn’t there

 

(copyright – ron olsen)  

The Current Russian Threat Could Make Watergate Look Like A Cakewalk

FBI Director James Comey has announced that the Bureau has an ongoing counterintelligence investigation underway to determine whether there was collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian Government in the run-up to the election. This is stunning.   It implies that the FBI was provided with cause to believe that an investigation might yield results.   From there, it isn’t a giant leap to thinking that this same investigation might include not only past members of Donald Trump’s campaign staff who are now long gone, like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, but possibly current members of Trump’s inner-circle and maybe even Trump, himself.

If they follow the investigation wherever it leads, then might it not lead into the oval office?  Is it a stretch to think that a sitting president and his current inner-circle might be under suspicion for espionage with the Russian Government?  If so, isn’t that the headline and shouldn’t a special prosecutor be appointed immediately?

It isn’t as though Donald Trump has no history with the Russians.  In 2004, DJT bought a piece of property in Florida for $41 million.   Four years later he sold that same property to Russian oligarch,  Dmitry  Rybolovlev for $95 million.  Not a bad profit.  It was, at the time, called “the most expensive U.S. residential property sale ever.”  Maybe Trump just got lucky and cut a really good deal?

In 2008, according to USA Today, Donald Trump Jr. stated, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,……We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Also interesting, is reporting about former Trump campaign official Carter Page, and a three-day trip he took to Russia in July of 2016 and the now famous dossier provided to U.S. intelligence officials by former MI6 officer, Christopher Steele.  One such claim, reported out by the Business Insider states,  “A dossier with unverified claims about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia contained allegations that Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s state oil company (Rosneft), offered former Trump ally Carter Page and his associates the brokerage of a 19% stake in the company in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions on Russia. The dossier says the offer was made in July, when Page was in Moscow.”

Despite an obvious and long history of having contact with the Russians, Donald Trump has repeatedly denied having any contact at all.   “I have nothing to do with Russia”, he said at a White House press conference, adding, “To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”

That’s a lie.  Trump’s ties to Russia go back at least 30 years.   The fact that it’s a lie is corroborated by Donald Trump Jr’s statement in 2008 about all the “money pouring in” from Russia.

If there’s even a possibility that the Russians are colluding with those at the highest levels of our government then is it wise to wait an indefinite period of time for the FBI to finish its investigation?   Why has Donald Trump continued his refusal to produce his tax records?   What is he hiding and why hasn’t either the Senate or the House sent him a subpoena for those very same records?  Shouldn’t a special prosecutor be appointed now?

In a country that’s afraid of calling out liars for what they are, a country that will use the terms “misleading, misinformed, less than factual or falsehood, almost anything imaginable before saying someone, especially a president is a liar, are we also backing away from the terrible realization that a growing body of information indicates  that a sitting president is (or was) colluding with an adversarial government?

Mr. Trump has insulted our long time allies in Britain and Germany and now, most recently, it has been announced that Secretary of State and former Exxonmobile CEO, Rex Tillerson, will snub a meeting of NATO and instead pay a visit to Russia.    While still with Exxonmobile, Tillerson cut a $500 billion deal with the Russians which, according to the New York Times,  has been “ground to a halt” by U.S. sanctions.   Rather than Tillerson attending the NATO summit, which would follow protocol, Donald Trump will be going to the meeting, presumably so that Tillerson is free to meet with the Russians, even though Trump has humiliated NATO, calling the organization “….obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago.”   Later, during a meeting with Angela Merkel, he flip-flopped and expressed support for the NATO Treaty, a mutual defense pact between 28 member nations in North America and Europe.  It has been in place since 1949.   It is widely accepted that the Russians would love to see NATO go away.

It’s also possible, considering how politically ham-handed these people sometimes are, that the Administration decided to totally snub NATO, and simply forget about the summit.    Later, once feedback began coming in and they realized the enormity of their mistake, they probably decided that Trump himself would attend the meeting leaving Tillerson free to meet with the Russians.

With the Trump Administration, it always seems to come back to what’s best for the Russians.

This is embarrassing.  Ivanka Trump moving into the west wing and being given a top security clearance only makes matters worse.  Our new royal family with King Donald and Princess Ivanka in charge, neither putting their vast business interests in blind trusts,  neither with any substantive political or diplomatic experience.

Instead of continuing to give Donald Trump break after break while he destroys our national credibility, turning the country into an international embarrassment,  it may be time to revert to that old catch-phrase from the 60’s and demand that everybody once again, needs to start “telling it like it is,” so that we the people can stop living each day with the terrible feeling that our country is under threat from executives at the highest levels of government who may have been co-opted by the Russians and could be guilty of collusion.

Even if there is no collusion, when does conflict of interest cross over into unacceptable or even criminal activity?  Is there a line and has it been crossed?  What are the limits for any given president using the highest office in the land for personal profit?   Doesn’t the emoluments clause come into play?

Our representatives in the House and Senate need to ask themselves whether it is sane for Donald J. Trump to continue on as president until a thorough investigation of his connections to the Russians has been concluded, and then take appropriate action to ensure our security.    They need to set party differences aside.  They need to put the country first and do their jobs so that the rest of us will once again be able to sleep at night.

(updated 3-22-17)

Congressman Tom McClintok Calls Trump A Liar

Hard line right-winger from California, Congressman Tom McClintock.  just called Donald Trump a liar.   He did it on the Chris Hayes show on MSNBC and Hayes totally missed it as did DNC Nat’l Chairmam Tom Perez, who was the next guest on the show.

I could be getting this totally wrong.  I’m not DJT, who never makes mistakes, but what happened, as I recall, is that Congressman McClintock was in a heated argument with Chris Hayes regarding what Donald Trump had said about Mexico paying for a wall along the border and McClintock said, “I never believed it.”   So he admits that he believes  Donald Trump to be a liar, because the Donald repeatedly said during his campaign that he would make Mexico pay for the wall.  And McClintock says he never believed what Trump was saying.  Repeatedly.  No question about it.

Thank you Mr. McClintock.   A great many of us agree with your conclusion that Donald Trump is a liar.

If I’m getting this right, I beg you to cut Chris Hayes some slack, as these Republican worms are telling lies with such ease and frequency that it’s easy to let one slip by.  But when members of Trump’s own party admit they were listening to his ongoing lies and that it’s apparently okay,  that’s pretty damn scary.

 

Will The Democrats Ever Grow A Backbone?

It’s being announced that there is no evidence that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.  Really?  How much of this crap are we supposed to take?   How many lies, first from candidate and now President Trump?   Where is the Democrat’s outrage at his outrageous behavior?  Where are the leaders in the center and on the left?  When are they going to grow a collective backbone?

I have sent messages via email to both my U.S. Senators and my congressman.    Please be encouraged to do the same.   My message to my senators is posted below.   Feel free to copy it for your own use, if you wish.

#########

Dear Senator,
I am writing to express my disappointment in the weak-kneed way the Democrats are responding to the ongoing outrageous behavior (lies) of President Trump. Just today the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee held a press conference to announce that there is no evidence that Mr. Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Really? It was just another Trump lie of course, and you guys should be shouting your heads off that his pattern of lies and deceit must stop now. You should also demand as loudly as possible, that Trump apologize to Mr. Obama and the American people for lying about the alleged wiretap, which, of course, never took place – just like all his other lies beginning with the campaign and then continuing into his Administration, which we still must worry could be aligned with Putin and the other Russian oligarchs. Come on! Trump could be in bed with the Russians??? He is nothing but a bully boy and you have got to start fighting back! If Pelosi and Schumer won’t do it then cut Bernie and Liz Warren loose and let them take the lead. They at least know how to fight back. The future of our nation is at stake, for God’s sake.

Thank you,
Ron Olsen
Bel Air

It Isn’t Easy Being A Chimp

While channel surfing the other day I landed on “Planet of the Apes,” that old movie with Charlton Heston, where humankind has finally blown it, resulting in all-out nuclear war, the destruction of humans and the rise of a world ruled by apes.   A world ruled by gorillas and chimps, and that’s what struck me while watching a bit of this film from 1968.

It was the competition between the big heavily-muscled militant gorillas and the smaller but intellectually superior chimps that stood out.

It feels similar to what we are currently going through, with the militant, science hating, healthcare denying, greed loving Republicans standing in opposition to the less aggressive, science loving and healthcare providing…..others.  Mostly Democrats, I guess, but there are others in the non-Republican political mix as well.  That said, I’m sure you get the idea.  The thinkers vs. the non-thinking bemuscled warmongers.   The gorillas vs. the chimps.   That’s not to say everybody with big muscles is stupid.   Some of the smartest people around are body builders, including a professor I had in college, who taught Humanities and rode a Harley.

The whole “apes” thing lines up pretty well with our national love for football, cage fighting, professional wrestling, ice hockey and gut-wrenching violent movies and tv.   Along with the explosion of giant trucks and SUV’s on our highways and big ugly boots and shoes.

Amateur observers and social scientists alike should be interested in the correlation between the Los Angeles riots in 1992 and the relatively sudden appearance of so many big expensive trucks and  SUV’s on our highways.  In Los Angeles, the change, at least for me, was stunning.  Before the riots, expensive sports cars and imports were all over the freeways of SoCal.   After the riots, many of the big Beemers, Mercedes, Rolls, Bentleys, Ferraris, Masaritis,  Jags and the occasional Lamborghini disappeared, and were eventually replaced by Ford Explorers, Expeditions, Chevy Suburbans, Land Rovers and Cadillac Escalades.    It’s said that trends start in the west and move east.   This one definitely did and I can’t believe no one else noticed.  Or maybe California residents were in denial about the change because it reminded them of the helplessness they felt for those few days when whole sections of the nation’s second most populous city were lawless and on fire.

So it was, in this city where “you are what you drive,” people became wary of driving anything that let others know what they had. And two years after the riots, in June of 94, O.J. Simpson left his Bentley in the garage and made his get-away in a white Ford Bronco.

In so many ways, the trials of O.J. Simpson and the Los Angeles riots, changed the country.

People enjoy feeling safe and empowered so they opt for a huge truck with a seven year loan and wear huge boots because they want to look like ass-kickers but there are other reasons for buying an “urban assault vehicle” as well.   Those who don’t care about the vehicular empowerment thing still feel a need to drive a giant vehicle because they’re afraid an ape in a giant vehicle might run them down, squashing their whole family like a bunch of bugs.  So it spirals out of control, leaving us with a nation of gas guzzlers that don’t fit into old fashioned parking spaces or onto highways that were never intended for all the traffic they currently carry while good looking but frail young women, cover themselves with tattoos and piercings while stomping around in giant steel-toed work boots.

Big, ugly and prone to violence is currently more popular than smaller, fashionably designed and peace loving.   Think of a big ugly SUV sitting next to a sleek, stylish sports car.   Think of slapping a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.   Think of apes being in charge while the chimps stand by feeling like they have been taken captive on a runaway train with a drunken ape at the controls.

At what point did war become not just acceptable but fashionable while peace became unthinkable?   When was the last time you heard a politician, any politician, say, “why can’t we give peace a chance?”   Probably back in the 60’s, about the same time “Planet of the Apes” was released.    Well before the twin towers came down and so much of our national courage was displaced by fear.

With all the money being made on big vehicles and warfare, the apes backed by a huge profit motive are clearly now in charge, east coast intellectuals and west coast liberal freaks be damned.   That profit motive may have been at the tip of the spear that struck a serious but non-fatal blow to intellectualism, as our culture began its celebration of ignorance while the mass media aimed low, determined to hit the lowest common denominator resulting in the highest possible profit margin (the two go hand in glove), giving us a ton of really terrible television and juvenile movies laden with special effects while popularizing the campaign of Donald J. Trump, and eventually getting him elected.  Trump drove the ratings, so they put Trump on television.   A lot.

So the apes are now running things in Washington, trying to take away healthcare for millions while they “deconstruct” our government, which was once the envy of the world.   And what about the “chimps?”   Well, they are pushing back, to the degree that they can while they wait for the next election cycle in 2018, hoping for the best.

While visited by the analogy of the apes, I thought also about the Freemasons and religion in general.   I’m not a Mason, but from what I know about their organization, I admire and respect their principles.   Both my grandfathers were Masons, as were the grandfathers of many of my friends while growing up in rural Minnesota.    Most of us, however, never joined.  I’m not sure why,  I suppose we simply never felt compelled, even though their ideals of honesty, a “square deal,” and living an ethically upright life were embedded in many of our adolescent brains.   Which had to be good. But with the passage of time the number of Masons has dropped off,  which surely means their influence on society has declined as well.  Religion, is also waning, to the point that Pope Francis is thinking about letting married men become priests.   I’m not saying church is for everybody, but it does provide a moral compass, and some, like the apes, really, really need the guidance, no matter what the atheists and agnostics might say.   And that’s where things become just a bit confusing.

A Gallup Poll, indicates that with the exception of Utah and its high number of Mormons, the states where Americans still attend church in significant numbers are in the south (former slave states), or red states, while the states where people have stopped attending church are in the northeast, or the blue states.

So the correlation between going to church and expressing a need to be your brother’s keeper, doesn’t seem to be there, does it?   Or perhaps a great many Christians are going to church for the forgiveness and not the responsibility of upholding the teachings?

Donald J. Trump, says he is Christian.   He says he is Presbyterian, while he supports legislation that would strip away healthcare from millions of Americans.   Maybe he missed the New Testament?

Anyway, the data tells us that heavily Christian church-goers, fewer of whom are college educated in the red and former slave states voted for Donald Trump, while the folks who aren’t so big on going to church are mostly packed into the blue states of New England where more residents are college educated and in opposition to trump.

You can and will draw your own conclusions but I’ll leave you with this:  It isn’t easy being a chimp, especially when life not only imitates art, but threatens us with duplication.

Trump Must Go And Republicans Must Take The Lead

It’s all very clear now.    After his Attorney General lied to a congressional committee followed by a fabricated felony leveled against a former president, neither the Donald nor any member of his cabinet has any credibility left, undermining the presidency, the nation and the Republican Party, which, if you’d forgotten, is currently the party in charge.

This is bigger than Obamacare or immigration.   Bigger than the travel ban or who can use which bathroom.  This is baseline national survival stuff.   This president is making things up as he goes along, like facts and even words, and he does it “bigly.”

Our house is on fire people, and we have got to stop being diverted by arguments over whether it’s serious enough to call out the fire department.

As quickly as possible, the Republicans, because they are in charge and unless they want to lose the House in 18 and maybe their party forever, have got to appoint a special prosecutor, who can then subpoena Trump’s tax records.   Trump, with only a fuzzy memory of Watergate, will then declare his taxes to be off-limits by virtue of executive privilege.   From there it will get kicked into the federal court system where the Supremes will eventually deadlock four to four, kicking it back to the lower court and Trump will resign rather than turn over his records showing God knows what.   Whatever it is, he obviously doesn’t want us to see it or he would have turned them over months ago.

Donald J. Trump, will then leave the White House, or maybe have to be sedated and carried out in a straight-jacket, with loud protestations from the Russians, right-wing talk radio, White Nationalist websites and scattered elements in the deep south.

And that will be that.   No more Trump.   No more feeling like we’re all trapped on a runaway train with Vladimir Putin at the controls.  We will be able to sleep peacefully again.

Come on, Republicans.   It won’t be easy, admitting your party did this to the country, but it will be better than doing nothing and maybe losing your party and possibly the nation (and your souls) in the process.   If you do the right thing and have Trump removed by legal means, you will at least be able to say you acted like statesmen and women of the party of Lincoln instead of a bunch of political hacks, which, by any sane thought process, has to be the better alternative.

This President, has signaled out a black reporter at a press conference demanding that she should set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.  This is nuts.   Reporters don’t arrange meetings for the President of the United States.  He has staff people that do that.   I guess Trump assumed that because the reporter was black that she must run around setting up meetings for other blacks because they are all black?  This President has also demanded that Congress must investigate whether former President Obama ordered the wiretapping of his phones in Trump Tower.  This is also crazy.   Totally nuts.   All he has to do is pick up the phone and call the intelligence agencies and ask if they have any evidence that it happened.   He’s the Commander in Chief.  Maybe he doesn’t know?  Or maybe he’s suffering from some pathology?  Maybe he thinks he needs a black reporter to do it for him?

Even now,  Donald Trump appears to be morphing into some kind of bizarre Nixonesque persona,  living within a private reality he molds to suit his moment to moment needs while spotting enemies around every corner and lashing out with tweets.   Like Nixon,  Trump may turn out to be his own worst enemy.

Please get moving now.  There is a bad craziness loose in the land and tomorrow it could be too late.   Thank you.

What Makes Trump Run?

I never imagined I would be more comfortable with Arnold in the White House, but at this point, I would.   I know it can’t happen, but for the majority, what Mr. Schwarzenegger suggested during his verbal battle with Donald Trump about switching places – that Americans would again be able to “sleep peacefully” with Schwarzenegger in the White House – is, I think,  absolutely true.

Consider the government by tweet of Donald J. Trump.   He sees crowds of people who are not there. At the National Prayer Breakfast, he asks attendees to pray for the ratings of a tv show to go up. He calls upon Russia to hack the campaign of a political opponent. He suggests the United States, with its democratic tradition, is no better than the Russian dictatorship of Vladimir Putin. Both before and after the campaign so many of his advisers and associates met with or spoke to the Russians, that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of who they are without a daily scorecard.     Attacking helpless immigrants, he breaks up families while using racism and sexism to divide an already divided country.

For no good reason, other than he has something nefarious to hide, he continues to refuse to release his tax records.  The loss of a Navy Seal he says, during an operation which probably should not have taken place, but which he approved, was not his responsibility.  No, he says, Obama and the military are to blame even though he is now Commander in Chief.  And finally, presenting no evidence at all (and that evidence is surely available to him if it in fact exists) he claims his home was wiretapped by former president Obama.

How much more do you need?

European nations are talking about reinstating a visa system for American citizens, needlessly making travel more difficult for us.  Worried about Trump and the Russians, Sweden, is reinstating its military draft.  Mr. Trump appears determined to do all that he can to separate us from our friends and allies while moving us closer to the devious dictatorship of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Donald J. Trump is screwing up the world, and he’s just getting started.   The fact that our electoral process backed by a ratings-hungry broadcast media allowed and even assisted this man in coming to power, and that our government now hesitates to open a full and independent investigation into Russian meddling in the election and their possible ongoing influence,  is both frightening and embarrassing.

Experts in the fields of psychiatry and psychology have expressed their concern for his personal well being and yet, many on the right continue to put party ahead of country, refusing to admit the obvious –  that when dozens of healthcare professionals, some, nationally prominent,  are willing to set the “Goldwater Rule” aside and expressing their concerns for Mr. Trump’s possible personality issues, then we need to pay attention.

It is no longer enough to follow common thinking on why Donald Trump does what he does, that it is done to simply deflect attention. There is also the possibility that sometimes this newly inaugurated president simply cannot control himself, that he responds rapidly in the heat of the moment, with a driving and possibly blind need for revenge, potentially putting us all at risk.

Trump’s Ties To Russia – Time To Stop Playing Silly Games And Get Some Answers

The amount of overt linkage between the Trump campaign (Administration) and the Russians continues to grow, and yet,  much of the media appears to be in denial about just how threatening this situation truly is.

The Guardian, has published an excellent piece connecting the dots on at least six individuals from inside the Trump camp, with contacts pointing back to the Kremlin.    The most recent, is the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who had two meetings with the Russian Ambassador, while Sessions was a sitting Senator and “surrogate” for the Trump campaign.   Then there was Paul Manafort, who appeared from out of nowhere to take over the Trump campaign, only to be summarily dismissed when news surfaced of his ties to a Russian-backed government in Ukraine, where Mr. Putin went to war, sending troops into Crimea, seizing it militarily and presenting a whole new military threat to the Balkans and the European Union.

There is also former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, Foreign Policy Adviser, Carter Page and attorney, Michael Cohen, not to mention our new Secretary of State and former CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, whose ties to Putin and Russian oil are now infamous.    A man with no experience in government diplomacy who is now, nevertheless, the chief diplomat for the most powerful nation on earth.

And then there’s Roger Stone.   A former Trump adviser who was also investigated by the FBI for alleged contact with Russia, and who, like Paul Manafort, was fired from the campaign.  Stone,  denies having any contact with the Russians.

If all of that isn’t enough,  a bit of brilliant reportage by Rachel Maddow the other night (please see preceding post) tied in Trump’s new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to the Bank of Cypress, where he is partners with Russian oligarch and former KGB agent and Putin ally,  Viktor Vekselberg.    Question:   To what degree is the Commerce Secretary of the United States benefiting from Russian money moving through his bank?   Where is the money coming from?Where is it going?  Does anyone even care?   Is our government now being run by the Russians?

Why, whenever he’s asked about Putin and the Russians, does our president act like they are beyond reproach, even going so far as to insist that America, with its democratic tradition, is no better than this current Russian oligarchy/dictatorship?

When questioned by Bill O’Reilly about the bloodthirsty ways with which Putin deals with his critics, Trump,  replied, “There are a lot of killers. We got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” 

That is ridiculous to the point of being asinine and  thoroughly un-American.  We do not deal with journalists or political critics by having them murdered or sent to a gulag.   We aren’t the country that had six diplomats die in four months.   That would be the Russians.

When listening to his repeated excuses and inexplicable ongoing defense of Putin and the Russians, it feels as though either A: Trump is being blackmailed, or he is B: being blackmailed.   Putin and his buddies are former KGB, not a bunch of diplomacy-first advocates for international peace and goodwill, and their operatives have an ongoing and abnormal connection to the administration of Donald J. Trump.

The White House is calling efforts to look into the Trump/Russia connection, “a witch hunt.”    Guess what the Russians are saying it is?  That very same thing, “a witch hunt.”    Almost like it was an agreed to talking point?    What the hell’s going on here?

There should be calls for impeachment.  Instead, Republican cowards continue making excuses for a growing pile of evidence showing a clear danger to the country from one of our oldest enemies, a Russian government that has already launched a cyber attack on our political process while possibly corrupting and to a degree,  maybe even controlling a sitting president.   How can we know,  when Mr. Trump continues his refusal to release his tax records?

It’s time to pull our heads from the sand and demand that our elected officials answer the critical question on the degree to which the Russians have influenced and possibly continue to influence the President of the United States.    It’s not like the evidence isn’t there.

The time for denial is long past.  Barring the political will for impeachment, this calls for a complete and totally independent investigation, far removed from the reach of politics, as so many of our politicians have shown themselves to be without sufficient honor to do the jobs they were elected to do.

The Russian bear is standing in the middle of the room laughing at us, threatening the existence of our democratic way of life.   Foreign powers, like the Russians, now have the ability to funnel untold millions of dollars into our political campaigns thanks to an incredibly bad ruling (Citizens United) by the U.S. Supreme Court. We the people must demand a resolution.   This is not acceptable.

 

Fear, Freedom and Redemption

Friends are expressing their sincere fear for the future of our country. Fear that the freedoms so many have died for and which we have come to take for granted will not be there for their grandchildren.

I too fear for our future as democracy continues losing ground to oligarchy and yet:

I never imagined we’d see an end to the cold war in our lifetimes. Never would have believed there’d be that photo of Reagan, Bush and Gorbachev standing in front of the Statue of Liberty. But it happened.

And now, with questions of Russian inroads and influence holding sway over the White House, and each day bringing new revelations about just how insidious that influence may truly be, I remain far from giving up on our system.

It appears the pushback against 45 is just beginning as we gain a greater understanding of how real the threat to the Republic truly is and that decades of putting party ahead of country must now be unwound and corrected.

A key for me is how Republican stalwart Darrell Issa, suddenly turned from backing all things Republican and is now instead calling for a special prosecutor to investigate 45 and Russian influence. I’m pretty sure he didn’t suddenly reverse his position without assurances that he is not alone.

Survival will always be a prime motivator for politics just as a free press will always be essential to our continued survival as a free people.

So long as we have a free and independent press, there is hope. It is our way out of the morass, a pathway back onto the higher ground that was and continues to be, America.

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Add:   One day later and now CBS reports that Darrell Issa, is “backtracking” on his call for a special prosecutor.  What a shame.  For a minute there I had mistaken him for a patriot.  Turns out he’s just one more political hack, after all.